OAK PARK, Ill., Sept. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- The Empowerment Experiment (EE) is proving Black products, services and talent is just as valuable as its general market counterpart. The movement, initiated by African American married couple John and Maggie Anderson in January, continues to inspire more Americans to support Black-owned businesses in hopes of infusing more wealth into the underserved communities.
EE specifically encourages other Black consumers and investors to practice self-help economics by leveraging the $1 trillion of black spending power to support Black communities. The Andersons and supporters of EE firmly believe increased economic stability and cultural pride in the African-American community will counter the urban problems disproportionately affecting Blacks. Those of the movement are confident the cyclical disparities of unemployment, poverty, crime, gang activity, teenage pregnancy and drug abuse can be halted with a powerful reinvestment in black business and entrepreneurship.
EE, now in its eighth month, continues to grow in its success with thousands of people around the world joining the Andersons in their movement. EE has thrust the civil rights issue of economic empowerment and justice for the historically underserved Black community into the national dialogue. EE has been covered on almost every major news outlet, including CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and FOX. In addition, the EE website, www.eefortomorrow.com, has over 1.4 million hits and EE is discussed in over 500 blogs.
Similarly, African American leaders from realms of business, industry and academia have also climbed aboard, lending their names, influence and expertise to fueling the movement. Among them are acclaimed author and networking guru George Fraser, chairman and CEO of FraserNet, Inc.; Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III, Sr. pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, TX; Dr. Juliet Walker, professor, the Dept. of History at the University of Texas at Austin and founding director of the Center for Black Business History, and renowned scholar, author and professor Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.
As the Andersons have been speaking at churches, rallies, conferences, universities and private events all over the country, they have inspired thousands to commit to supporting Black business. EE has selected 20 participants, individuals and families, who will attempt to live off Black business and talent for one month. The "EE 20" will take this stand publicly, and carry it out at the same time. Like the Andersons, they will document their journey and their experiences will serve as data points for EE's landmark study. Among those who have signed on to do EE are:
- Alonzo Mitchell - Louisville, KY
- Audrey Hayes and family - Dallas, TX
- Jeffrey & Faye Walker and family - Baltimore, MD
- Crystal Senter Brown - New England
- Darlene Robinson and family - Orlando, FL
- Kieon Hilliard - New Orleans, LA
- Tracy Hinton - Chicago, IL
- Deborah and Delxino Wilson de Briano and family - Atlanta, GA
- Dr. Z. Viel Robinson - Greensboro, NC
- Jackie Anderson - South Holland, IL
- Maria L. Peel - Matteson, IL
- Garner Ted Actie - Orlando, FL
- Syreeta Talbert - Chicago, IL
- Haniff Russell - New York, NY
- James and Dredria Newborn - Merrillville, IN
- Sonja Barber - Dallas, TX
- Natasha Pratt-Harris - Baltimore, MD
- Dredria Newborn and family - Chicago, IL
- Nicole Berry - Chicago, IL
- Tut Burks - New Orleans, LA
The Andersons are proud of the growth of the experiment, but recognize that EE has reached this level of success through the contributions and faith of their supporters nationwide. "This project was never supposed to be about our family," says Maggie. "We merely manifest an important message of love and pride that we feared had been fading away in our community. That so many other families, whom we've never met, would take this stand with us should demonstrate to the world that there still exists in the black community a great sense of hope, unity and a willingness to sacrifice to improve our collective futures," she adds.
While EE has gained broad-based support, the movement has also weathered criticism and backlash from those who view the experiment as reverse discrimination. Organizations, such as the Facebook Group, "Stop the Empowerment Experiment", claim 'working toward the ideal of racial homogeneity cannot be served by racial segregation in any form, regardless of intention.' Although the leaders of EE acknowledge the controversy surrounding their movement, they remain firm in their belief that a thriving African-American community benefits society and the United States as a whole.
"It is not racist to lend support to a community that has the highest rate of unemployment. It is strategic planning," says Steven Rogers, the Empowerment Experiment's executive adviser for entrepreneurship and wealth creation. "We have always proven to be the least racist of everybody. We have never been discriminatory with our dollars. We will spend with anybody. However, we don't see any evidence of general market consumers buying from black-owned companies on any major level."
In addition to spending over $50,000 thus far with black businesses they normally wouldn't have patronized, the Andersons have discovered impressive finds such as black owned wines and wine-importers, upscale clothiers, home security firms, cigar shops, fitness centers and a host of other specialty retailers through EE. While, at times it is a challenge to only "buy black" the Andersons are committed to fulfilling their ultimate goal.
"We created the Empowerment Experiment because we want every child--regardless of race--to feel secure, proud and hopeful about their future," said Maggie. "If supporting black-owned businesses is a way to uplift our youth and provide a more stable future for the African-American community, my husband and I are committed 100 percent."