A plan for economic empowerment

(NNPA)—When did you last buy something from a Black-owned business? Maggie Anderson is a champion of “conscious consumerism” and has made supporting Black businesses her saintly goal.


Mrs. Anderson and her husband are about what all African-American households should be. A few years ago, they embarked on the “Empowerment Experiment,” a period that they vowed to patronize Black-owned businesses exclusively. They did that throughout 2009. The story of that year is the book, Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy.

Although they could have remained in the middle-class American mainstream, the Andersons set out to inspire more support for Black-owned businesses, stimulate supplier diversity in corporate America, and to get Black households to make pledges of support. Our Black Year’s goal is to place the issues facing Black businesses in the national spotlight.

The Andersons should be lauded by the race as true role models who have affected us in ways that makes us want to be better people. They are setting an example to correct Black Americans’ lack of economic power by showing how to strengthen our economic base, empower ourselves and be self-reliant-and-sufficient. In Our Black Year, Maggie Anderson issues a call to action for us to do our part. Alfred Edmond Jr. of Black Enterprise magazine adds that: “Our Black Year is a must-read.”

The most iniquitous thing among humanity is self-destruction and self-hatred. “Being your own worst enemy” is widespread condition among African-Americans. In the book, Anderson reports that: “Black people patronize businesses within their own ethnic group less than other ethnic groups.” She discovered that our businesses lag behind all other racial and ethnic groups. Anderson points out that a dollar circulates among local shop owners, banks and business professionals for up to 28 days in Asian communities. In the Jewish community, a dollar circulates for 19 days. But, in the African-American community the money earned is gone within six hours.

African-Americans are dysfunctional when it comes to capitalism and reciprocity. Blacks spend only two cents of each dollar we get with other Blacks, and often conspicuously choose to spend with White businesses rather than support Blacks.

“Sometimes I wonder whether something in our DNA prevents us from working together, whether the cultural liabilities we’ve experienced and…cultivated over the decades have become the essence of who we are,” writes Anderson. “In flexing our economic might, by proving that we can shop wherever we want, in so doing, we abandoned Black-owned businesses.”

To be real players in American capitalism, Blacks should shop consciously and racial identity and affiliation should play a role in our actions. In contrast to Blacks that boast how “mainstream” they are in their purchases, the Andersons transferred their money to a Black bank and switched cell phone companies based on race.

Blacks have more than $800 billion in expendable income each year, yet the majority of this money is spent outside our communities. You’d think that this is a prime point in Black Americans’ development for economic empowerment based on Blacks helping Blacks.

In contrast to post-racial politics, Maggie Anderson encourages Blacks to: 1.) Subscribe to Black media, 2.) Open an account at a Black- or community-owned bank, and 3.) Look for basic services—such as an alarm or cable company—owned by Blacks. In addition to the Anderson’s campaign, radio talk show host Warren Ballentine teamed up with the National Bankers Association, the Washington, D. C.-based consortium of minority-owned financial institutions, in “The People’s Economic Movement” program designed to encourage African-American individuals and institutions to deposit dollars in Black banks.

Our Black Year and Ballentine’s People’s Economic Movement provide interesting challenges for African-Americans. To understand the interplay of race, economics, and conscious consumerism, it’s recommended that progressive Black civic and church groups; book and block clubs make “Our Black Year” next month’s theme and topic. Contact: info@eefortomorrow.com— www.EEforTomorrow.com.

(William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.)

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