Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Our Black Year by Maggie Anderson

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.”

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Sidne said...

I so understand this book although i must admit I think mine would be more on point. I am constantly saying this over and over and over again to my family, friends, and the teens i mentor the importance of we as a people buy from our own, and why it's a economic think. let me stop before i start venting here. definitely going to go out and get this book.

Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose said...

Reading this made me think about where I spend my money. I'm now more aware and even have a list of black owned businesses where I live.

Shan said...

This sounds really interesting. I try hard to buy Canadian and that's a difficult thing to do even though it's Canada! So I can imagine how difficult it would be to only shop from black owned businesses.

My husband and I always talking about the fact that all of the Caribbean stores we shop at aren't owned by people from the Caribbean. I hope I can find this book, I look forward to reading the solutions and resources that she has.

Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose said...

Now that you mention it, I never really paid attention to whether or not things I've purchased are made in America.

Maggie came up with very creative ways to purchase black owned. There wasn't a black owned gas station near them so they bought a gift certificate from a gas station that was black owned and could use it at the gas station near their home.

Think-About-It said...

"..we have ourselves to blame". I struggle with that because we all have the power to uplift each other economically, & even socially. However, it appears to be a challenge. I came to the conclusion that our disadvantage is rooted in the fact that we do not pass around important pieces of information about how the world works (e.g. this book), early enough.
You blogging about this book is great.

Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose said...

Welcome! You hit the nail on the head. Yes, we do "have the power to uplift each other" and when we don't do that, e.g. buying black owned, we are part the problem.

One of my favorite quotes, "The first power we have is knowledge." Which is why I primarily read non-fiction.