We know that what we are doing is different, intriguing, provocative, controversial even. We banked on the notion that an average American family embarking on a not-so-average journey to live off of Black businesses would make it to water-cooler-talk one Monday after a slow news weekend... and probably give a few members of 'urban' news media something to talk about in between the Jay-Z/Beyonce and 'Making the Band' updates or the who-was-wearing-what-at-the-BET-Awards commentary or the latest report on how Black unemployment is double that of Whites. We never dreamed that our pledge to give back to our community by using the money we spend everyday would make it to the front page of the Chicago Tribune or that Wolf Blitzer would be talking about us on The Situation Room on CNN. We never conceived of actually discussing the possibility of leveling the playing field for Black businesses with Neil Cavuto on Fox Business!
But here we are and yes we did. And it hasn't stopped. The media is all over this!
Isn't this what I wanted? Look at the phenomenal platform we have now to push the EE message of taking ownership of our problems and uniting the struggling to the successful so we can solve them. People from all over the world can actually tune in as we proclaim that we have to believe in and support our own if we are ever going to change our status in America.
That's nice. I guess.
What I really wanted was a chance to unite all the John and Maggie Andersons out there who take the problems of the Black community home with them at night. I wanted to speak to all those folks like us who cringe every time they hear about another child dying at the hands of gang violence, because they just KNOW that as soon as they look at the TV to see who it is, another Black child holding a baseball, or donning a graduation cap or military uniform is going to be plastered across the screen. I wanted to reach out to those folks out there mentoring our at-risk youth after working all day at their corporate gig... those who wonder why they even try because their mentee had to drop out of the program due to his father's unjust incarceration and now has to stay home and take care of his siblings. I wanted to connect to all those folks who have started to believe that nothing is going to change for us here, that this is the best we are going to get... that the only hope is that sooner or later enough of us would get out of the ghetto so we would not have to pay attention to it anymore... that this situation where a whole group's sense of advancement and pride comes in the form of the 11 or 12 successful entertainers and athletes is actually acceptable.
'Hey, we made it! We have overcome - look at Kobe Bryant and Oprah Winfrey! See?!'
That's what I wanted to talk about. That's why John wants to sit down with CNN and BET.
But is that what they want from EE? Do those media giants really want to talk about Empowerment for the once enslaved? Do they really want to discuss the possibility of true equality - where former master and former slave are now living together harmoniously (not begrudgingly), and their mutual respect and civility is represented by their common, unified progress and similar quality of life?
What do you think?
Do you really believe that's why they invited us to talk on MSNBC?
Before you answer that question, let me drop another one on ya. Do you really think I cared why they wanted us on there?
Yeah, they tried to make us out to be some militant, fringe, new-miliennium racists on a mission to do something that's not gonna make a difference anywhere. You know the story was much less about a creative social experiment that touches some Black Americans at their core, an initiative that for some of us, could represent all we are and all we'll ever be, a pledge that means so much more than buying groceries or finding a mechanic... the STORY was 'Meet the crazy lady driving 18 miles to buy eggs. OR 'Introducing the Ivy league coo-coo cult starting up in Chicago that is setting out to destroy Walmart.'
I always tell you the truth, my EE family. I'll tell you when I'm scared, sad, angry, worried. And I am being totally honest when I say that I was completely fearless. Of course, I was nervous as I had never been on national TV before... but I was not afraid of what they would say or ask. I know my heart. I know why we do this. I know I am no racist. I know Black people, and no one else for that matter, have not done enough to support the economic possibilities from the most economically exploited and neglected constituency of America. I know that the head of the Entrepreneurship Center at Northwestern University's Graduate School of Management, business icon and esteemed Professor Steven Rogers would not have signed onto this if it was silly or inconsequential. I know Dr. Michael Dyson of Georgetown would not put his name and face on this project if it was a racist undertaking, or some covert plot to dismantle the White business regime. That knowledge, your support, and my husband's undying love render me fearless. These truths make this project unassailable by the media, the racist whackos, and the idiots who equate Black empowerment with White weakness or loss.
So guess what happened. The more interviews we did, the more the validity and purity of this endeavor came through. The more press we got, the more we presented ourselves as the intelligent, honest, honorable, compassionate Americans that we are... and the more the dialogue became about the rancid inequalities in American business; the utter injustice of the asymmetry between Black buying power and Black economic health; the fact that other ethnic groups practice self-help economics and thereby drive, realize and contain their economic development; and the pathetic and poisonous premise of self-loathing that Black people have fostered and enabled to erode our economic potential.
That's what happened. We spoke the truth. We stuck to our positive message. We were not baffoons. We did not embarass our families or our cause. We gave 'them' no fuel for their antagonism or ridicule.
So will you still listen? Will they continue to cover EE? As Russell Crowe said in Gladiator, "Are you not entertained?!"
Who will follow and report on this journey? Will they hang around even if we don't offer the embarassing gaffe or the entertaining faux-pas?
EE is not about entertainment. EE will never embarass you.
The Andersons won't dance.
So stay tuned to the Empowerment channel. Check your local listings for a Black business near you.