Street Talk

Street Talk: Living on the black edge

September 15, 2017
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The force behind a black-owned business empowerment experiment will show up in Muskegon tomorrow ready to talk about economic injustice.

Margarita “Maggie” Anderson, CEO and founder of The Empowerment Experiment and author of “Our Black Year” will speak at Muskegon Community College’s “And Justice for All” series on Sept. 19 with a talk titled “Economic Injustice: The Empowerment Experiment.”

The free event runs from 6-8 p.m. in the Collegiate Hall at MCC’s campus, 221 S. Quarterline Road in Muskegon.

Nicholas Budimir, an MCC sociology instructor, will moderate the discussion.

Anderson and her family made a much-publicized, yearlong stand living exclusively off businesses, professionals and products from the black community. She called the case study in self-help economics The Empowerment Experiment and it led to a landmark study conducted by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business. The results demonstrated that support of black businesses and professionals can assist the black community and improve the American economy.

The first-generation American daughter of Cuban immigrants, Anderson earned a B.A. in political science from Emory University and a J.D. and M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.

Before the Empowerment Experiment, Anderson was an aide to civil rights activist and U.S. Congressman John Lewis, the speechwriter for the mayor of Atlanta and a corporate strategy executive at McDonald’s Corp.

Since the experiment, Anderson has toured the country, inspiring consumer and corporate engagement of unsung, top-quality African American professionals and firms.

Anderson lives in Oak Park, Illinois, with her husband John Anderson, an African-American activist, and their two daughters. In addition to The Empowerment Experiment, she created Maggie’s List, a search engine to help consumers find and support black-owned businesses, franchisees, banks and professionals in their community — including doctors, lawyers, accountants, contractors, realtors and mechanics.

Taste buds

After building up the successful and popular Taste of Muskegon event over the past 11 years, Downtown Muskegon Now and the city of Muskegon have agreed to transfer the local downtown festival to the city.

Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson and DMN Chairman Andy Maciejewski have signed a “letter of understanding” in passing the Taste of Muskegon event to the city with the goal of sustaining and growing the event celebrating Muskegon food, community and local businesses.

“The Taste of Muskegon over the past few years has outgrown our small agency’s ability to produce and take the risk for such a large annual event in Hackley Park,” Maciejewski said. “The DMN board is grateful for the hard work and dedication of the volunteer team that took a struggling event and created one of the largest gatherings in Hackley Park every year.”

Taste of Muskegon — the third weekend of June in 2017 — drew record crowds both Friday night as a Party in the Park and all day Saturday. The event was a boost for the nearly two dozen food vendors who had significant sales and were able to promote their products and restaurants.

After looking for a nonprofit to take over the event, DMN entered discussions with city officials, who want to keep it as a kickoff to the downtown Muskegon festival season.

“We want to continue to support and build up downtown events and activities,” Peterson said. “We see this event raising funds to support community projects to better the quality of life for everyone in the city.”

Taste of Muskegon proceeds will support programs and events at the city’s Muskegon Farmers Market, Western Market, Hackley Park, Pere Marquette Park and the Smith-Ryerson Playfield, among other city facilities, city officials said.

“We hope that longtime Taste of Muskegon sponsors, organizers and volunteers will help us keep building and improving the event that draws a wide variety of people from across the community,” Peterson said. Next year’s Taste is slated for June 15-16.

Parties in the Park President Ami Gongalski said the Friday night Taste of Muskegon was its largest and most successful party in 2017.

“Parties in the Park has been thrilled to incorporate Taste of Muskegon into our schedule the past few years,” Gongalski said. “We look forward to reaching out to the city to see how this collaboration can continue in 2018 and future years.”

Risk and reward

A recent gift to Grand Valley State University will propel the university’s freshwater research forward.

Researchers at GVSU’s Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute will be able to investigate topics that the government typically won’t pay for, thanks to a new endowed fund created by Allen and Helen Hunting.

The Huntings initiated the Allen I. and Helen J. Hunting Research and Innovation Fund through a sizable gift to GVSU. It will support research on issues affecting Lake Michigan and the Grand River, including water quality, agriculture, climate change and other freshwater questions.

Alan Steinman, the Allen I. and Helen J. Hunting director of the Annis Water Resources Institute, said the fund will allow risky but rewarding research that could have significant impacts on water resources and science.

“Organizations that fund research like to be relatively certain that the money they’re giving is going to yield some safe results, but that often means taking very little risk with research and sticking with safe, often predictable results,” Steinman said. “The gift from the Huntings means that we’ll have funds to go after exciting and groundbreaking research, focusing on high-risk but also high-return projects. Research needs to take that chance every once in a while to yield unique results that are important to protecting our Great Lakes.”

Steinman said he hopes to use the fund to more aggressively pursue research into micro plastics in the Great Lakes, as well as assess the potential impacts of stressors that will affect future water resources, including climate change, land-use change and water withdrawals.

Promise keeper

Sparta-based ChoiceOne Bank is doing its part to help fund the pipeline that sends Newaygo County-area children to college tuition free.

ChoiceOne is donating $25,000 over the course of five years to the Newaygo County Area Promise Zone, which is available to students who graduate from the area and reside in the Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency area. Promise scholarships cover tuition and fees for a two-year award up to the value of the current annual tuition rate of Muskegon Community College for students with a grade point average of 2.5 or higher.

“As the local community bank, we believe healthy communities start with healthy families,” ChoiceOne President and CEO Kelly Potes said. “Our children are the heart of our families and giving them educational opportunities to succeed today is vital to their future. The Newaygo County Area Promise Zone will help strengthen our families and our community.”

Potes added that the bank chose to support The Promise because of its focus on education and families.

“The Promise fits both, and it provides an opportunity for everyone to get a post-secondary education so they can use their God-given talents to pursue a career and transition into their adult lives,” he said.

In addition to the donation, ChoiceOne is holding another fundraiser for The Promise, pledging to match dollar-for-dollar donations up to $25,000 through the month of September.

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