Front and Center is a groundbreaking series of op-eds—published by Ms. and created in partnership with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust—which aims to put front and center the voices of Black women who are affected most by the often-abstract policies currently debated at the national level. The series highlights the success of Springboard to Opportunities’ Magnolia Mother’s Trust, which this year will give $1,000 per month for 12 months to 100 families headed by Black women living in federally subsidized housing.
What possibilities could open up for low-income families if financial survival weren’t always top of mind? What dreams would these mothers and families be able to pursue?
What activism and community leadership might arise? The series will answer these and other questions, by placing one mother’s story front and center every other week. The first-person accounts in this series are available for reprint.
I was born and raised in Jackson, Miss. I have one child, a daughter, Rickedria, who just turned 15 and will be going into the 10th grade. She’s an honor roll student. She’s great at dancing, and also really strong in her academics. She’s very smart, intelligent, respectful. But she’s also a child—she loves going places and spending money; she loves shopping. She’s about to start working on getting her driver’s permit soon, and she’s already got her plans for college. She wants to be an engineer, and her dream school is Ole Miss. She’s going to be a young college student—she’ll only be 17 when most people are 18.
The Magnolia Mother’s Trust has really helped me in preparing for her school, especially since it includes a savings account for each child so she already has something going for college.
And then my dad surprised me the other day: He’s going to open up her own savings account for her as well to get prepared for college. And she is planning to work as well, so between all that, she’s going to be really ready for the costs that come with college.
The money has also helped me cover my monthly bills, and get caught up on some old debts. It also helps to pay for things like my daughter’s school books. And then she wanted to have a dinner for her birthday, and I wouldn’t have had the ability to pay for that before the program. But with the Magnolia money and my dad helping out, I was able to do that, and have everyone come out and show love to her.
The dinner and a trip down to New Orleans were the two things she asked for for her birthday, and I was able to do both because of that help of the program and my family. We just got back from New Orleans, which was the first time either of us had been there. I think that’s probably the first time we’ve been able to take a trip as a family in at least seven years. It’s been a long, long time since we had a little vacation.
Before the pandemic, I was braiding hair for work, and since the pandemic hit, I’ve just been doing on and off jobs. The pandemic really hurt my ability to work since I was in a salon before, but I was able to get some unemployment last year. Then I was working at Dollar General, but I just couldn’t get enough hours. I was getting maybe two days a week, then not getting anything for a week, or I’d get shifts that were just two or three hours. It wasn’t enough to pay the bills and it was also during the pandemic, so I decided it was just better to stay at home with my daughter since she was doing online school. She really had a hard time with switching to virtual learning; she is much better and happier doing face-to-face in the classroom.
If I could do any job, it would be owning my own salon. That’s been the same dream I’ve had since I was a little girl.
I want to show the world what I can do instead of working behind someone else’s name. I’ve been working toward it for a long time—I started braiding hair when I was 12, and I’m 32 now. I recently earned my braiding license, so that’s important in getting my own shop started one day.
I know the last story here was from a mom who was in the Magnolia Mother’s Trust program last year and was able to open her own salon and is passionate about helping other moms who have a goal of being entrepreneurs. The folks at Springboard are going to connect me to her so I’m really looking forward to that.
For my daughter, my hope for her right now is to be the first one in our family to graduate from high school—my brothers and I all left school early. I want her to have a real high school diploma, not a GED. I want her to go to college, and to just know that whatever she wants to strive for, I’m gonna be right there behind her to support her 100 percent.
What gives me hope in this moment is her. Just watching her go from graduating elementary school to middle school to now being close to the end of high school.
You know, where I’m from, you just don’t have that much hope. So seeing my daughter succeed and be motivated really inspires me. Really, it’s just all about me being there to support her.
Original article appeared in Ms. Magazine: https://msmagazine.com/2021/07/08/front-and-center-7-chephirah-guaranteed-income-black-mothers-women-magnolia-mothers-trust-jackson-mississippi/