I got tired for Maggie Anderson. And all I did was read her account of 12 months of her family’s life. From the record of her extreme practice, I came to appreciate just how much this experiment demanded of the family that was determined to not turn back, give up, or sell out. I got on board (on a smaller scale) with their quest to use their buying clout to support and uplift Black businesses. If I had any preconceived notions of how difficult their journey was before I read the book, those notions have been zapped bit-by-bit and page-by-page. The pathways and roads of this odyssey were not easy for the Anderson family. Their pain could be our gain.
For Anderson shares that her family not only encountered white people who were against their idea, they found that certain mindset’s within the black community presented some of their biggest hurdles. She gives readers the whole buckshot load – writing about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the victorious. For victory did come; in so many ways and on so many levels. This well-researched experiment is ours to benefit from at the expense of a trailblazer who refused to quit.
In the book she reports, among other findings, that not only are black businesses in decline; but that black suppliers, vendors and franchisees are also lacking.
I met Anderson on December 1st last year at Austin Community College. I heard her speech, engaged her in some dialogue, and took plenty of pictures of her and her famous book. However, I was not able to support her by purchasing her book. I picked it up during the first week of February at my local library. I was in for a surprise.
Highlights that I feel are worth repeating were gleaned from this book. I verified some lesser-known facts and came away with some savvy during a month when African Americans establish a goal of getting more savvy about themselves and their history. Following are some bulleted points that she made in regular print, and where I verified them in italics:
- Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood Avenue used to be a thriving Black business district.
- I found information on whatwasthere.com which supports the notion that in the early 20th Century there were many successful and wealthy Black business owners in this place which was nicknamed, “America’s Black Wall Street.” The site also indicates that the demise of this area was attributable to the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921.
- Durham’s Black Wall Street on Parrish Street was a Black business district.
- Both today.duke.edu and durhamnc.gov/department/eed.parrish websites support the fact that there were many Black owned enterprises concentrated in this area in the beginning of the 20th Century.
- Operation Breadbasket was a Black empowerment movement in Atlanta and Chicago in 1966 and 1967.
- On stanford.edu it indicates that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference launched their “selective patronage” campaign. Essentially it touted no patronization of businesses which denied jobs, courtesy or advancement of Blacks.
- There was a time referred to as The Golden Age of Black Businesses.
- A 2/14/10 article in The Daily Press (Hampton, VA) confirms this finding mentioned by Anderson.
- Tony Brown held a “Buy Freedom” campaign aimed at garnering support for Black businesses by Blacks.
- On answers.com it indicates that journalist Tony Brown founded the Council for the Economic Development of Black America and the motto was indeed, “Buy Freedom.”
- Lynching was used as a form of economic terrorism in many instances.
- On umass.edu it indicates that lynchings were most common during the end of Reconstruction through the beginning of the Great Depression. It list three causes, as follows: to maintain social order, to suppress black competitors for economic/political/social rewards, and to stabilize the white class structure and preserve the status quo.
- There are some hidden havens whose mission meshes with Andersons: iZania, Recycling Black Dollars, The Black Shopping Channel are a few.
- I found that each of these had their own website, or multiple sites. Some of them also had a presence on Twitter and/or Facebook.
Additional Points Made in the book
- Many people assume that a Black-managed and a Black-owned business are the same. She also wrote that due to the use of Black voices on Black-themed radio stations and business locations in poor, Black areas; many people equate this with being Black owned.
- Anderson found that Black people often have a disconnect pertaining to how they may have contributed to the demise of a Black business. When a black grocery store closed (Farmers Best), she reported that many were shocked or didn’t believe it. Yet they had done nothing to show support and didn’t factor in that neglect as having anything to do with the Black business owner having to shut its doors and walk away from their dream. She mentions how she told one woman,”It’s your fault.” She explained to this woman that many Blacks did not have the common decency to empower one of their own brothers by shopping at his beautiful store once in a while.
- On page 132 of the book’s hardcover edition, Anderson writes that part of the reason why Black people can never earn their rightful place in society is because of lack of support for each other. “The failure is about whom we have chosen to be,” she writes.
- Commentary: In my own experience as an author, I have found that many times African-American bookstores have to close because the people for who they were created do not support them well enough for them to remain solvent. I have been blessed to have book signings at each of these Texas bookstores on the following list before they closed: Mitchie’s Fine Black Art (Austin, TX), Folktales Bookstore (Austin, TX), The Black Bookworm (Fort Worth, TX), Jokae’s African American Books (Dallas, TX). Additionally, Texas’ oldest Bookstore (Black Images in Dallas) closed it’s doors and became an on-line only venture – this is verifiable on pegasus.com and seemeonline.com.
- I also find that a lot of African-Americans prefer to order my self-published books from Amazon.com rather than purchase them directly from me. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just delays and reduces the money going into my pocket.
Final Review Marks
I believe this book (as well as the experiment and resulting movement) could be defined as a tour de force. Since this is a book review, I will comment specifically about the book here: It is both an expose, and a wake-up call to Blacks and the rest of the country. It points to the fact that Black people have made certain gains, but at the expense of some things near and dear. Anderson makes it clear that the trade-off of one goal and hope should not have happened at the cost of others, but should have provided additional rungs on the ladder toward an upward climb. Praise to the Anderson family for their bravura in bringing this book to the market.