Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Can a Middle Class, Suburban Family Lead a Black Power Movement?

My family made a choice, publicly, to spend as much money as possible with Black business owners and professionals. We made this decision and make this sacrifice because we believe Black people have too much talent and spend too much money for their community to look the way it does and for its families to suffer the way they do. We urge our community to practice self-help economics. We want our people to unite, in this positive and peaceful way, to counter social ills that disproportionately impact our people (recidivism, unemployment, gang activity and drug abuse, lack of education), by infusing wealth into underserved neighborhoods, creating more jobs, and providing role models for the youth.

Sounds good…right?

Many people have violently criticized our pledge, our project, and our overall mission. Through hate-email, blogs, Facebook, letters to our home, we have been called racists and Nazis, and demeaning, malicious attacks have been lodged against us and our people.

There are those dismayed by EE’s call for Blacks to leverage and engender collective consumerism as a solution to our problems… threatened by EE’s blatant refusal to continue to wait and rely on the largesse of others or well-meaning government programs to trickle down… confused by our public and proud choice to support our own genius and products. Those people have been feeling that way about any call to ‘buy Black’ for a long time.

But they’re more fired up now because what really burns them about EE is us.

John, Maggie, Cara and Cori—the Anderson family of Oak Park, ‘Apple Pie’ USA. We scare and appall them.

That people like us could dream up something like this is what’s new and inspirational about our movement. And sadly, this is precisely what bothers so many about it. We aren’t poor and disenfranchised. We aren’t ex-offenders reformed in prison. We are not militant radicals. My Ivy League husband and I earned six-figure salaries working in corporate America. We went to white universities and studied with and about good white people.

We don’t fit the Black activist profile.

How dare I, a manifestation of the great American Dream, the product of many races and nationalities, preach self-help economics for Black people?

How dare John? John came from a ‘good’ home in a ‘good’ neighborhood. John’s father paid for his Harvard education. John even has White friends!

So we aren’t supposed to be offended and distressed. We shouldn’t be starting movements. They say we should be humble and grateful, doing everything we can to repay our country for the victory of our lives—not trying to improve America so that there can be more families like ours living that American Dream too.

We’re supposed to do what everyone else does. You know, shop with the big names and designers instead of with our conscience. Drive over and around the struggling Black parts of town. Ignore the plight of our people, the rights of our people, the power of our people—all in exchange for the welcome and cozy embrace of American middle-class life.

We are pretty confident that our girls will get good educations, wonderful opportunities, and grow up to be law-abiding, productive members of society. This is all that should matter to us.

“What else could they want?” They say. “Why are they trying to change things???!!!!”

Yes, we do have a wonderful life. But it’s not enough. And we’ll throw it all away if it means we could not keep fighting for what’s right.

You know what we really want? We want to live that wonderful life in a society where our beautiful people are not relegated to the bottom anymore. So we fight for that. That’s our fight. That’s our journey. That’s our movement and it’s just beginning.

(This blog was originally written by me, Maggie Anderson, for Black Enterprise.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Watch our new video. The best one yet. Be inspired. GET HYPE!

Please watch our new video. THEN support our movement. We cannot do this alone. We cannot fund this out of our own pockets anymore.
Please support the EE Foundation today!

How we came up with The Empowerment Experiment - my personal story

Last year, my life was great. Great family, career, healthy, financially blessed. But my blessings and my purpose were encompassed in what I had, not what I was or what I did. My life’s deeds were reckless and improvised, without purpose or commitment. I had developed a dangerous sense of gratification and entitlement at the risk losing my righteous sense of consciousness and connectedness.

Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s suffered from these periods of silly shallowness. So you know - it’s a awful condition. It breeds laziness, renders you idle, and robs you of the hunger, passion, humility and creativity you need in order to make a difference in this world.

And then, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was given a month to live. All that was before The Empowerment Experiment.

Then, fortunately, God gave me a moment, an instance, a teeny-tiny, fleeting yet most remarkable moment. That moment knocked me over and lifted my high…

We had just spent hundreds of dollars on an anniversary dinner at a restaurant downtown. The whole time we were there, we talked about the social crises in our community, the poverty and recidivism. We talked about doing more mentoring… and that’s when the check came and we paid the bill. And that’s when we realized that we are a part of the problem we were talking about donating time to fix. Our people needed that money. Our businesses needed that money. And all our credentials and accomplishments mean nothing if we know that and do nothing about it.

It was in that moment I learned I don’t have the luxury of giving up, or giving in. I no longer had the right to live the empty and easy life. I could not choose between Living the Dream and Fighting for the Dream anymore.

So we decided to do something meaningful with our lives. We decided to do something about the crisis in our community. We made our pledge to completely live off of Black business and talent. We decided to ground the pledge in an academic study so that we could monitor the potential of buying Black and scientifically defy negative stereotypes about Black business. We called on some leading intellectuals on Black history, sociology, economics and business to join our team. We built a website and issued a press release to announce our plans. We did this all by ourselves, right out of our basement.

That press release did not have to picked up. No one had to come to that site. I mean, so what, who cares about where a Black family decides to buy their groceries and clothes?

Seven months later we are in the midst of a national movement where we have folks registering from all over the world to make pledges to buy Black. We have twelve new EE families from across the country, who are preparing to do The Empowerment Experiment together… just like we do, in front of the cameras, so we can make history together.

Our little bootleg website has well over a million hits. We’ve done MSNBC, BET, Fox News, CNN, CBS News, you name it. And a few weeks ago, the article done by the Associated Press, not submitted to them by us, “Couple’s buy black experiment becomes a national movement” is still being featured in every major news outlet. EE is discussed in over 1000 blogs.

And my mother, who according to the doctors, should have been dead three times over, is right here with us – cancer free.

So if you think EE is going anywhere - you got another thing coming!

That's the truth. That's why we are here. This is pure. This is real.

Thank you for your support.