In 2009, Oak Park’s Maggie Anderson and her family set out to only buy from Black-owned business for the year. Their experience is chronicled in Anderson’s Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy. Join Ms. Anderson to discuss her research and her book on Sunday, November 18 at 2 pm at Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake Street. Copies of the book will be available for sale and signing by the author. The event is free and open to the public.
Maggie Anderson, along with her husband John and two daughters, made a conscious decision to purchase quality goods and services from Black-owned enterprises in local neighborhoods for one year. As they searched for merchants, the Andersons quickly surmised that the majority of businesses located within Black urban neighborhoods are often owned by people living outside those communities. The family also found very limited types of businesses available within Black urban neighborhoods – currency exchanges, not neighborhood banks; liquor stores and big box-stores instead of mom and pop groceries and clothing boutiques.
Still, Black-owned dry cleaners, grocery stores, shoe and car repair shops, and banks were sought out and eagerly embraced by the Anderson’s. This often meant driving long distances to shop outside of their Oak Park neighborhood, bypassing large chain stores and sometimes discovering a new world of products unavailable in larger stores. Though they found scarcity, Maggie and her husband also saw that these stores and their owners were islands of hope and were genuine engines driving the generation of capital in their neighborhoods.
Out of this challenging, intentional quest grew the desire to call upon other Black consumers to transform their enormous buying power into a catalyst for change. Maggie Anderson is CEO and cofounder, with her husband, of The Empowerment Experiment and The Empowerment Experiment Foundation. She received her BA from Emory University and her JD and MBA from the University of Chicago.
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