Philadelphia, PA – More than 200 leading members of the Philadelphia business, political, education and grassroots community packed the African American Museum for author Maggie Anderson’s Our Black Year Book Signing & Panel Discussion on Monday, February 20, 2012. A consortium of organizations served as co-hosts including: The Philadelphia Chapter of The National Alliance of Market Developers (NAMD), The African American Chamber of Commerce PA, NJ & DE, The African American Museum in Philadelphia, PRWT Services, Inc. and The Urban League of Philadelphia.
PICTURED: Maggie Anderson (center) with Panelists and Sponsors at Our Black Year Book Signing
Attendees were spellbound as Anderson, CEO and Co-founder of The Empowerment Experiment, detailed the harsh realities of 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.
Following her presentation, there was a panel discussion moderated by A. Bruce Crawley, President, Millennium 3 Management, Inc. and one of the founders of the African American Chamber of Commerce PA, NJ, & DE. In addition to Anderson, the 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 African American Chamber of Commerce PA, NJ & DE.
Some of Anderson’s startling findings revealed in Our Black Year include:
- African Americans make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population but represent anywhere from 25-40 percent of the consumer base for grocery stores, fast food restaurants, athletic apparel, and toy stores.
- 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 6 hours.
- Out of every dollar an African American spends in this country, less than two cents go to Black-owned businesses.
- White-owned firms have average annual sales of $439,579 and Black-owned firms have average annual sales of $74,018.
Anderson was introduced by Norm Bond, Chairman of the National Alliance of Market Developers (NAMD). “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” Bond stated. According to the 2007 U.S. Census Bureau data, of the total number of firms in Philadelphia, 22.5% are Black owned businesses.
Harold Epps, President & CEO of PRWT Services, Philadelphia’s largest African American owned company with annual revenues of $100 million, closed the discussion by issuing a challenge to the attendees. “If 50,000 Black consumers and businesses committed to re-direct $2,000 of their annual spending to Black-owned firms, the result would be $100 million dollars in revenues.” This would be a great start and something that represents participation by less than 10% of Philadelphia’s African American population.