Maggie and John Anderson were successful African American professionals raising two daughters in a tony suburb of Chicago. But they felt uneasy over their good fortune. Most African Americans live in economically starved neighborhoods. Black wealth is about one tenth of white wealth, and black businesses lag behind businesses of all other racial groups in every measure of success. One problem is that black consumers -- unlike consumers of other ethnicities -- choose not to support black-owned businesses. At the same time, most of the businesses in their communities are owned by outsiders.
On January 1, 2009 the Andersons embarked on a year-long public pledge to "buy black." They thought that by taking a stand, the black community would be mobilized to exert its economic might. They thought that by exposing the issues, Americans of all races would see that economically empowering black neighborhoods benefits society as a whole. Instead, blacks refused to support their own, and others condemned their experiment. Drawing on economic research and social history as well as her personal story, Maggie Anderson shows why the black economy continues to suffer and issues a call to action to all of us to do our part to reverse this trend.
What began as a 90-day project to "Buy Black" became a year-long project (2009 2010) and a foundation promoting black entrepreneurship for a Chicago couple, Maggie and John Anderson. They tried to get through the year patronizing only African-American businesses, "to document what products and services we could and could not find." While this book shows them living their lives with social difficulties (what should one do if invited to a friend's party thrown in a white establishment?) and emotional crises (a terminally ill parent, stressed friendships), the primary focus is on their foundation its history, hard times, and highlights of the "Empowerment Experiment." In merging the details of their effort checking out establishments, getting celebrity endorsements, black business history, and multiple statistics the book becomes repetitive, overwritten, and more tiresome than its dynamite subject deserves: "How insane is it that we couldn't find a Black-owned store in all of Chicagoland with a consistent supply of fruits and vegetables?" If Anderson's book gets readers to wrestle with that question, it will have done a good enough job to make what is largely a business history an effective probe into how African-Americans spend so much money that flows so overwhelmingly out of their community.