‘Our Black Year’ author Maggie Anderson delivers MLK keynote


[Choral music] This year, we’ve decided to highlight Reverend Dr. King’s later focus on pursuing and achieving economic equality in and for the black community. Maggie Anderson matches this message perfectly as she’s worked tirelessly to disseminate this vision through both public speaking and private sacrifice. Next year, we are going to only support black businesses and black professionals to start really pushing more of black money into the black community. She has a message that I think… that that message will resonate with you, and I think it’s a message that you’ll be able to leave here and tell your friends, and they’ll tell their friends, and we’ll be able to make a difference tonight. [Applause] So 10 years ago, John and I embarked on this life-changing and hopefully community-changing adventure called the Empowerment Experiment. For one whole year, this naive and nerdy couple would try to prove their love for their hurting community and often test their love for each other, living out a public pledge to only support businesses and professionals of the black community. And it still hurts my heart when I think about what we put our little girls through, begging me, their mama, for fruit and toys, going to school crying, with their shoes too tight and bellies poking out of their shirts, coming home crying because they were teased all because it took five whole months to find one black-owned shop in Chicago offering toddler clothing and shoes. I made my girls eat gas station food like old bologna, old milk, over-priced and over-sugared “cereal.” And chili-cheese Fritos for dinner. Ok, I ain’t going to lie, it didn’t kill me to be forced to eat chili-cheese Fritos. I do like chili-cheese Fritos. But I did not enjoy being forced to eat those Fritos because the one black-owned grocery store in all of Illinois closed five months before we finished our experiment. Almost everything King and the movement fought for and built is gone or at risk That pride and prosperity and that power he grew up seeing no longer exists. The bank Jackie Robinson built so that black families can get mortgages and black entrepreneurs can get business loans — Freedom National Bank — it’s gone. We celebrate Jackie, we celebrate King when we talk about great American racial progress, But those banks that they built and fought for, the banks that helped them make that progress are dead. No one is asking you to only support black-owned businesses. We’re just saying “Can we support them a little more?” If we just spent a little bit more money with these businesses, we could create close to a million new American jobs. American jobs. So I’m going to ask you now, my new Northwestern family, I’m gonna go out fighting. Are you? Thank you. Thank you so much. [Applause] Thanks for letting me share our story. Thank you. Thank you. [Applause] [Choral and instrumental music]

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