I learned about this book when I attended the book signing at Overdue Recognition Art Gallery several months ago. “Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy” is the story of a Chicago couple that attempted to shop only black owned business for a year (2009) and document the experience. They eventually named their project the Empowerment Experiment and before I finished the book, I knew I’d be participating.
Reading this book was eye opening to say the least. It contained quite a bit about the history of Chicago (more than I wanted to find here) but it also documented the history on the rise and fall of black businesses in general. Although I never made the connection, I wasn’t surprised to learn how the trickle-down effect of race relations in this country in still impacting potential black business owners today. But it is noted that we also have ourselves to blame.
This book addresses failed attempts to promote the growth of businesses in the black community, the reputation that precedes black businesses, and ways money is leaking out of the community. I commend the author for not only identifying the problem but for also proposing solutions along with a list of resources included in the back of the book.
Although she knew the experiment would be challenging, the author was not prepared for the lifestyle change that would come with this undertaking. There were many products and services that were not provided by black business owners. But even having to compromise their diet did not prevent this family from following through on their one year commitment.
The takeaway message is that Maggie Anderson doesn’t expect anyone to do what she did. She just wants us to do more than we’re doing. And doing a little more could mean a change in the lives of an entire generation.
“There is a flood of data about problems in the black community…….but there is nothing about the fact that outsiders own most of the thriving businesses in black neighborhoods.”