How Black Friday and Small Business Saturday Can Rescue African American Neighborhoods

I am so proud to join the YWCA in promoting the value and importance of conscious consumerism to create strong, safe African American communities, and economic inclusion and equality as an American ideal. Women have so much power and influence in this economy. Let’s use it! We can use our spending power and decisions to fight for the powerless, stand up for the disenfranchised, and make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. That was the essence and mission of The Empowerment Experiment, the year I solely lived off of businesses in the African American community. I wanted to do more, do better, do my part - as a woman, a consumer, a mother of two girls, and a proud American - to bring more jobs, wealth, and role models to those places that needed it most.

At this time of year, there is so much energy, excitement and expectation around Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. These events create jobs, strengthen businesses, and are major exercises of consumer spending. But sadly, in my African American community, these days are a death knell for our economic potential. That economic activity hardly empowers struggling African American neighborhoods and quality African American businesses. Every Saturday is Small Business Saturday in Asian American communities, like within the Chinese, Indian, Korean and Vietnamese populations across this country, where the dollar is recycled for up to 28 days via the retailers, banks, professionals, and shopkeepers. Every Friday is Black Friday for our Jewish American friends, as they proactively, publicly seek and support Jewish-owned businesses and Jewish professionals, keeping their dollar in their community for 21 days on average. But the dollar in the African American community survives for only 6 hours, I am saddened by what the holiday season will do to my economically deprived community.

As I link arms with my YWCA family, I celebrate the opportunity to give new meaning to Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. If we - as women united for racial justice and women’s empowerment - come together this year as conscious consumers, these "days" can begin to rescue the deprived and denied communities where so many African Americans live. We can make this season a time when more women, Black and not, can proactively seek and support small minority-owned businesses.

For African Americans especially, this weekend should be days of reckoning when we all think about those six hours, how less than 5% of our trillion dollars in buying power stays in our community. It is our duty, as African Americans, to support our community’s economic viability, and continue to demonstrate our value and contributions to this great country.

I envision America with all kinds of people shopping at a retailer or grocer started by an African American family. I want all kinds of people supporting our franchises and depending on our industries and professionals; banking with us, and staying at hotels and B&Bs owned by African Americans, just like we do for everyone else.

I dream of an America where the word ‘corporate’ does not ring absolutely, automatically antonymous to the word African American-owned. An America where it’s conceivable that a "Johnson & Johnson" mega-corporation can be an African American Johnson, like most of the Johnsons we know. We cannot give up on that America. For example, tens of billions dollars are generated in the African American hair care and beauty industry. One of the largest companies in the industry - owner of Magic Shave, Dark & Lovely, Roots of Nature, Optimum, Motions!, to name a few - has very few African American firms in its supply chain and less than 1% of the businesses they engage are African American, yet their consumer market is 100% African American.

Similarly to other ethnic groups, African American businesses hire 70% of their employees from their community. Since African American firms are the greatest employer of African Americans, it stands to reason that the best way to fix such drastic African American unemployment is to grow these businesses. Over 80% of the businesses in virtually all African American areas are owned by other ethnic groups who do not live in, and typically do not hire from, those neighborhoods.

There used to be 6400 African American owned grocery stores in America. There are less than 12 now. There used to be hundreds of thriving banks in our community. We now have just over 20, and they are all fledgling. Mine closed just recently. These are sad facts with deadly impacts. They make me dread instead of delight in the shopping season. Our spending power as women and as conscious consumers gives me pride.

If conscious consumers, corporate partners, and quality business owners and professionals work together, we can bring back the economic empowerment which sustained the Black community before and until integration.

That is the intention of Maggie’s List. Maggie’s List is a resource for conscious consumers to drive economic empowerment in struggling African American communities by supporting the businesses creating jobs, role models and wealth all in one place. You will also find mainstream retailers, franchisors and brands that empower the community by doing business with African American entrepreneurs. Everyone wants Maggie’s List. It’s going to take a lot of money to bring you Maggie’s List, and it’s been tougher than expected to raise it. So Maggie’s List is not up yet, but you can sign up to show support and receive updates at Sending you all my love, best wishes and best businesses this holiday season!

About the Author

Maggie Anderson and her family made history and dominated headlines as national media covered their real-life case study in self-help economics in the black community. The Anderson family lived exclusively off black business and talent and bought only black-made products for an entire year. It was called The Empowerment Experiment. Since the completion of their experiment, Anderson has become the voice of American consumers of all backgrounds who want to make sure their buying power positively impacts struggling minority communities. A sought-after speaker, Anderson has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS Newshour, CBS Morning News, and many other national broadcast syndicates. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book, "Our Black Year."

Her message is that everyone, especially African Americans, can do their part to counter the social crises that disproportionately impact black people and underserved urban neighborhoods simply by supporting quality black businesses every day. She believes that this recycles black wealth, decreases unemployment, and creates more local role models for black youth.