Oak Park, Ill. mother Maggie Anderson entered 2009 with an ambitious goal: for her and her family to "buy black" for an entire year. Anderson hopes her effort to support African American-owned businesses will her inspire her community become more active their sometimes struggling neighborhoods.
Anderson wrote about her experience in "Our Black Year," a book published last month and co-authored by Ted Gregory. She explained to Fox Chicago this week that the idea came about because she and her husband John wanted to embark on their dramatic adventure as a means to "inspire economic empowerment."
(Scroll down to watch an interview with Anderson.)
"We have all these consumers with hard-earned wealth spending money at businesses, and that money exits the community and goes to empower other people's communities when our communities need that money," Anderson told Fox.
The results, Anderson admits, were mixed. They struggled at first to find necessities like diapers, aspirin and fresh food from businesses that fit their criteria in the Chicago area , even though city is home to the most black-owned business in the country.
As Anderson explained on NPR last month, children's clothing was also tough to find. While the Andersons said they expected to find most of what they needed on the Chicago's nearby, black-majority West Side, they mostly found "stereotypical fried chicken shacks, fried fish shacks, barber and braid salons and a couple of funeral parlors."
But, Anderson argued, it wasn't always that way -- before integration, the area was loaded with black-owned banks, department stores, drug stores and other businesses, but "in flexing our economic might, by proving that we can shop wherever we want, in so doing, we abandoned a lot of those businesses," NPR reported.
Anderson has caught some flak from people who criticized her experiment as national media attention grew, a University of Chicago magazine reported. A Facebook group called "Stop the Empowerment Experiment" was launched. Its founder Greg Krsak criticized the project as being "as much based on 'choosing not to do business with someone' as it is 'choosing to do business with someone.'" When the project was initially called the "Ebony Experiment," Ebony magazine threatened a lawsuit.
Despite the criticism, Anderson has pressed on and continues to urge the black community to support black-owned businesses however they can, as she told Mother Jones last month:
I encourage everyone to immediately get 10 subscriptions to black-owned media, immediately get an account at a community-owned bank, immediately look for the basic services -- like an alarm company, just check to see if there's a black-owned alarm company in your community. There are. Plenty of them.
WATCH an interview with Anderson about her family's "black year":