Their Year of Buying Black

Cheryl V. Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times, December 20, 2008

Consumers worldwide might be tightening their belts, but Maggie Anderson’s mind is black with plots to spend.

Her Oak Park family is publicly committing to a year of buying from black-owned business and supporting black professionals exclusively, starting Jan. 1.

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Her family’s efforts will be followed by a team of college researchers as part of a project called the Ebony Experiment to determine the impact of the Andersons’ spending if extrapolated to a larger portion of black America.

Proponents of buy-black initiatives say they are key to community prosperity, as studies indicate black-owned enterprises are more likely to hire black employees. Those firms are likely to sponsor community programs and their owners participate in institutions such as churches that provide community services, said Steven Rogers, director of the Kellogg Entrepreneurial Practice Center at Northeastern University’s Graduate School of Management.

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The Andersons, who plan to spend about $10,000 a month next year, will move their checking account to and refinance home and car loans with black organizations. They’ll seek black-owned firms to do home improvement projects and handle vacations they’ve put off until next year.

And they want black America to watch as they discover companies with which to do business.

The couple–she’s a lawyer; he’s a financial adviser–will blog and post videos at EbonyExperiment.com to document their spending, and invite people to offer their own accounts of shopping black.

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Coming out of the project will be a database of black-owned businesses and professionals and a university-based study. Social commentator Michael Eric Dyson is on the team and will pen the foreword for a book detailing the experience.

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Michael Bennett, director of DePaul University’s Egan Urban Center and a researcher helping to measure the Anderson impact, said this effort stands out from the loads of buy-black initiatives he has seen over his 64 years.

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