Activist Challenges Morgan to Support Black-Owned Businesses

The MSU Spokesman

IMG_2834Margarita Anderson helped Morgan State University celebrate Black history month by speaking about her “Empowerment Experiment” and promoting her new book Our Black Year at the TEDx talk at the Murphy Fine Arts Center.

Anderson, an activist and author, also did a book signing on campus with Black Jack Legacy Enterprise (BJLE) in February. The events emphasized for students the importance of networking and supporting black business.

The TEDx program, a nationwide series of events, stimulates dialogue about innovation by featuring a series of speakers. Sarge Salmon, TEDx Founder, invited Anderson to speak about her empowerment experiment.

Anderson’s empowerment experiment was conceived of in 2009, when she decided to buy only from black-owned business in Chicago, where she lived at the time. She discovered there were very few black businesses. Sometimes, she had to drive miles just to stick to her plan.

Our Black Year is the story of this experiment, and the start of a movement to encourage African Americans to support black businesses locally and nationally. Anderson is on a book tour to teach everyone how to build our own businesses and brands.

“What we really never talk about is the lack of the supply of diversity and business diversity in corporate America,” said Anderson. “So many brands completely live off of the African American dollar and have zero representation of African American businesses in their supply chain.”

“I do put my feelings on a page,” said Anderson. The book focuses on the family engagement in that year, but is much more important than those 365 days. It is a treatise on black business history, capturing business stories and hypothesis about what could happen if more people helped support black businesses.

“We present a lot of scenario analysis,” she said, explaining that she worked with a team to research the companies and help gather information for the study. “The other thing about the book is that it contains our landmark study.”

“In that study [we]  break down everything,” she said. “Where our money went, how much money we spent on certain goods and services, and what we could find? It also presents the wonderful statistics I talk about every time I speak. That proves that all we have to do is spend a little bit more time in our communities everyday….and we can create millions of jobs in black areas.”

“With the campaign I would talk to a few celebrities like Common. He would give incentives and promotions for [people] to practice self economics.” This is all a part of her movement.

She said, “We get celebrities to give backstage passes to concerts and much more. This is a way to keep it cool and keep it hip in order to get people excited about doing what we should be doing anyway.”

The book documents the Anderson family’s experiences for one year of only supporting black owned businesses. The going door to door, the public responses, the media coverage, actually saving receipts and locations was tedious, she said.

Anderson and her husband were at dinner when they realized how much money was being put into what she feels were “the wrong pockets.”

With her husband, she continued to question this specific issue and explore how to get people to use their money to help other people. “That was the night the Empowerment Experiment was born! One week turned into a month, and months became a year,” said Anderson.

“All [the media] show is barbershops, braiding salons, and soul food restaurants,” Anderson said, insisting there was so much more than that. They are proving with their newest project, “Maggie’s List.” This will be the new directory for all black-owned business throughout the world.