More than 200 members of the Philadelphia business, political, education and grassroots community packed the African American Museum in Philadelphia on February 20 for author Maggie Anderson’s “Our Black Year” book signing and panel discussion.
The Philadelphia Chapter of the National Alliance of Market Developers, the African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, the African American Museum in Philadelphia and PRWT Services, Inc. hosted the event.
During the event, Anderson, CEO and co-founder of the Empowerment Experiment detailed her family’s year-long journey of buying only from Black-owned businesses.
“We went into the experiment to engage in self-help economics. We wanted to empower the struggling Black community economically. But it wasn’t so simple,” said Anderson.
Many of the businesses that the family patronized during the Empowerment Experiment in 2009 were shuttered by the time the book was released in 2012. In fact, she lamented, the Black-owned grocery store that played a vital role in her food shopping closed while the Empowerment Experiment was in progress. Although it received little consumer support under the African-American owner, today it is a bustling business, owned by a Hispanic entrepreneur.
Some of Anderson’s findings revealed in “Our Black Year” note that African Americans represent anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the consumer base for grocery stores, fast food restaurants, athletic apparel and toy stores.
Anderson also found that out of every dollar an African American spends in this country, less than two cents go to Black-owned businesses, and white-owned firms have average annual sales of $439,579, while Black-owned firms have average annual sales of $74,018. According to Anderson, one economist found that in the Asian community, a dollar circulates among local shop owners, banks and business professionals for up to 28 days before it is spent with outsiders. In the Jewish community, a dollar circulates for 19 days. In the African-American community, a dollar is gone within six hours.
“Maggie Anderson and the Empowerment Experiment speak to a Philadelphia tradition in which people don’t just complain, but are willing to do something about it,” said NAMD Chairman Norm Bond, who introduced Anderson during the event.
Following Anderson’s presentation, there was a panel discussion moderated by A. Bruce Crawley, President, Millennium 3 Management. In addition to Anderson, panelists included Patricia Coulter, president & CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia; Steve Davis, president & CEO of Omega Optical, Megan R. Smith, president of Brownstone PR and Steven Scott Bradley, president & CEO of Bradley and Bradley Associates, Inc. and chairman of the AACC.
Harold Epps, president and CEO of PRWT Services, Inc., closed the discussion by issuing a challenge to attendees.
“If 50,000 Black consumers and businesses committed to redirect $2,000 of their annual spending to Black-owned firms, the result would be $100 million dollars in revenues,” Epps said.