Sunday, April 26, 2009

Luisa's daughter came home to Atlanta.

In any given year, we spend most of our 'vacation' time with family. Unfortunately, most of our family is far away... in Washington, DC, Detroit, and Atlanta. Fortunately, for The Empowerment Experiment, most of our family is in Washington, DC, Detroit, and Atlanta - three of the most powerful Black business centers in America. What a coincidence! The year we dedicate to buying Black and trying to elevate the issues facing Black business; the economic, corporate, and commercial disparities we accept as a community; the stereotypes and systems that keep all that going... the year we commit to creating an honest and empowering dialogue between ourselves, the struggling and the successful, the rich and the poor, the hoodie and the suburbanite... that's the year my mother decides to beat pancreatic cancer.

She and my Papa live in Austell, a suburb of Atlanta. Everything I am or ever will be springs from her wisdom, guidance, courage and indominatable character and dignity. All those degrees don't mean a damn thang! I am Luisa's daughter. That's who I am. That's where EE comes from. Luisa, my mother, was supposed to die many times last year. She hangs on for us. She hangs on for EE. She knows we need her. And this is her dream too.

So as you can imagine, this year, the year of EE, I am spending a lot more time in Atlanta. It's my second home. And that means it's EE's second home.

My trips to Atlanta are very emotional now. Mima is frail. It saddens me. Mima is still here. That makes me happy and grateful. But now the trips are even more emotional because I've been talking to Atlanta about EE. I've been on the radio there, done some interviews, and met hundreds. EE hosted events at two Black-owned wine shoppes. People from all over the city came, just to meet me, just to talk about EE. All they know is that I am a woman who has pledged to support Black businesses. That's all. But you know what? For some folks, those who are starving for change, who are suffocated by the status quo, who are stifled and stranded by the hopelessness they fear is infinite... those folks think that anyone who would make that kind of commitment must be a superstar.

Who is this hero? Who is this brave soldier who would dare make small efforts to find and support quality Black businesses and then go out of her way to promote them? Is she a politician, a radical? Who is this heaven-sent champion spending her time, money, heart and mind on trying to prove and tell anyone who would listen that it is beautiful to buy Black? Who is paying her? Why would she do this? "Will you come back to Atlanta and run for Mayor or Governor of Georgia?" asked Frank of the famous "Frank and Wanda Morning Show."

They flooded our events contemplating these questions. They stood in line and on tippy-toes just to hear me speak or shake my hand or hug my neck. One man was ready to fight another man just for thinking he could disagree with the words coming out of my mouth. "We love you." "We got your back." "Thank you." "Thank you for doing this." "Thank you for standing up." Can you help me?" Could you talk to my son?" "Will you speak at my church?" "Keep going sister. We will help you." "Thank you."

Thank you.

Who me?

What are you thanking me for? I'm just visiting my Mima! I'm just buying bananas and coffee. I'm just going out to eat. I'm just getting my nails done! I'm just talking about how proud I am to be Black and be able to support the wonderful talent coming out of my community. What the hell are you standing in line to talk to me for?!! I'm no hero.


Look, I'm just like all of you. I am a mother who worries about her babies, looking for more chances and ways to protect and love them. I am a wifey who takes good care of her husband, is proud when I look good for him, and lives for his smiles and kisses. I am a daughter who strives to represent all the strength, principles and wisdom my parents instilled in me. That's all I am.

I'm you. Just as you are me.

I went to Atlanta to see Mima. Before I left we had started our first EE affiliate chapter - The Empowerment Experiment of Atlanta. I went to sip on some fine African wines and I left with a movement at my back.

But I aint nobody special. You may feel that way. That's only because I got you thinking about a new kind of future for us. That's what's special. That's what's powerful. Those possibilities, that chance to taste the apple-pie, picket-fence dreams that so many Americans take for granted. That's the feel-good stuff that has your eyes welling...that new quality of life for a people that has suffered so much and given so much to America. And in return we ask for pies and fences. Pies and fences. PIES AND FENCES!!

So think about that. Not me. I'm just Luisa's daughter. Luisa. The Cuban immigrant who, regardless of her virtually white-skin, never abandoned, diminished, or negated her Blackness, her Africanness. The mother of three, who gave up everything she had, including the wedding ring she refuses to replace, so her family can have a better life in the land of opportunity. The laborer whose vacations were defined by her children's and grandchildren's weddings and graduations... who managed to send all of her children from the gang-infested streets of Liberty City to college and their individual success stories. That's me. I'm her daughter. That's all I ever will or ever want to be.

So think about the pies and fences. Think about all the Luisas who fight for us.

And don't think about me. I'm just Luisa's daughter.

Think about us. Think about what we all can do together.

Then who will the real hero be?


  1. Out of respect I read all of this blog’s posts. Your experiment is an interesting concept but it is just a continuation of the black perspective that every single individual that isn’t black is out to discriminate against black people.

    I’m quarter Japanese/Italian/German/Irish (I look white). I went to inner city schools and a High School( that had a very small percentage of my graduating class that wasn’t black. I’ve lived in public housing (Columbus Housing Authority Booker T. Washington) and being the “white family” in a neighborhood that is nearly all black is really tough (the same principles of discrimination come into play). As long as people (what ever race/color/creed) continue to propagate their perceived undervaluation it will exist.

    Mark 11:23
    “For verily I say unto you , That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass he shall have whatsoever he saith.”

    This is the exact mentality which the black community is living under. As long as anyone in America (take the Black community) feels they need some type of special advantage to qualifying circumstances (believe they are purposely being disadvantaged) they will stay disadvantaged. If anyone goes into a situation(meeting/sporting event/performance) believing that they don’t have what it takes then they don’t.

    Let me tell you a story. A number of years ago I was working at a moving company. Often times on jobs people would be getting rid of furniture that was in perfectly good condition and would offer it to the movers. One of the guys at work (Jerry Guy, did I mention that he is black) managed to acquire an upright piano for a small rural church and needed some help moving it out there. The issue that we ran into when we got there was that there was no real path to put a dolly under as it was dirt and grass to the door. In the end we had to mostly carry it (just the two of us). Normally uprights are a 4 man carry if you have to move it without a dolly (say up stairs) but there was just us two. This is where a persons perceived believing comes into play. Eventually we ended up as the only option to finish by hand carrying it so I decided I could pick up my side and we got it inside the church right before it started raining.

    The real handicap that “Black America” has is that when they wake up and look them selves in the mirror they believe that the color of their skin is a disadvantage. As long as that is propagated it will be a disadvantage. You believe you can’t therefore you can’t. (but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass)

    I like to read a lot (how I came across this particular blog). Generally 20-30 books a year plus enormous amounts of online reading. Recently I read something like the following:

    “When you see a woman or minority as a manager you doubt their qualifications but if you see a white guy you know that he was the best candidate for the job.”

    As an example.

    Policies like Affirmative Action didn’t break down a wall they only built a new one that‘s can‘t be easily combated. Instead of outright discrimination like Jim Crow (I’m sure you can ask pretty much anyone 30 and under and they won’t have a clue except those well read like myself) you have perceived discrimination in it‘s place for a whole generation(or longer).

    In closing:
    Joshua 1:7
    “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.”

    I pray that you successfully go a whole year with black owned businesses but please at least take a look that your looking at issue that is far down the chain. Producing a website that has a list of black owned/operated business is a noble cause but at the end of the day it only functions to facilitate a small number of people. The real issue at the bottom of the chain is eliminating the preconceptions that anyone is inferior through personal excellence.

    Good Day and God Bless.
    Taskmaster Cyning.

  2. Discrimination.

    "It's only racist if you're white."

  3. Mrs. Anderson,

    I heard your interview today on NPR. I commend you for efforts. As the host introduced the piece, I was skeptical of this concept. However, I felt you articulated yourself well and that your reasoning was sound. I wanted to call and chat, but the segment was finished before I had the opportunity.

    I'd like to express a few opinions, not really for you, but for the unfortunate folks who you indicated disagree with your experiment (sometimes strongly). Perhaps some will read this on your blog.

    I am a white guy, brought up in a conservative middle-class family where it was easy to get an education and go to college. I have a great family, a big house, a nice car, and two dogs - very much a piece of "Apple Pie" Americana, as you termed it. I believe in hard work, capitalism, moral standards, and until recently, I voted Republican (I am now an Independent). In short, I am just the sort of guy that should be denouncing this as racist, so I feel like I can talk to the people who are doing so.

    It is a FACT that is most measurable categories of social opportunity, black kids are lagging far behind. This manifests itself in the form of many kids who become uneducated adults - many are non-contributors to society; drug dealers, criminals, and the like. If you are a liberal, this is a product of systematic discrimination and poverty. If you are a conservative, it is a product of a poisonous culture within the black community which views education as "playing the white man's game", coupled with a plague of irresponsible fathers and mothers who bear children out of wedlock at an alarmingly high rate.

    What is the solution to this problem? If you are a liberal, you throw money at the problem in the form of social programs. This helps you to feel warm and fuzzy inside, but the efficacy of money not linked to demonstrable results is questionable. If you are a conservative, you believe that each should do for himself and handouts only encourage this sort of behavior, and therefore social programs are a waste of money. Of course, you don’t consider that whether we pay for social programs or jail cells, WE ARE PAYING FOR THIS PROBLEM every day in some way.

    There is a third category of folks – the smart folks – the folks who are interested in real solutions. If you are smart (as Mr. and Mrs. Anderson obviously are), you realize that whatever the causes, the problem is REAL and it is URGENT.

    Now, we all make consumer choices every day.

    Some of us choose to buy only American cars – Does that mean you hate Japanese people?

    Some of us choose to buy in our local communities – Does that mean you hate outsiders?

    Some of us choose to only hire union workers – Does that mean you hate non-union workers?

    Most of us don’t even make an effort to discriminate between our choices. We are content to wander aimlessly through life, buying whatever we like on credit. Clothes made in sweatshops. Gasoline refined from foreign oil that funds terrorism. Products that wreak havoc on the environment. Most of don’t really know or care. Sure, we talk a good game, but we are too lazy to put our money (and effort) where our mouths are.

    Enter the Andersons. People who recognize a problem in the black community, and who want to do something about it. They aren’t passing judgment. They aren’t asking for a handout. They are trying to solve a social ill that, regardless of the cause, is affecting ALL OF US.

    Do the Andersons hate white people because they shop at black-owned businesses? Of course not. They are taking something that they would do anyway and doing it in a way that does some good. It is still up to the black owners of those businesses to build and grow their business, and be rewarded accordingly.

    I say it’s a great idea, and I wish you good luck.