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. Find additional guidelines at the end of this story.
I have an 18-year-old son named Frederick and I just turned 41. I had been a little hesitant about turning 40, but given everything that happened with the pandemic, I am no longer scared of being in my 40s; I am grateful.
I had a long time without work during the pandemic, because I worked at the Westin hotel here in Jackson and they closed my department.
So I haven’t had work since the shutdown, that was March 17 of 2020 here. I have been looking for work, and all I want is just a good-paying job.
The money from Magnolia Mother’s Trust was so important in getting me through those months last year. A coordinator from Springboard, the organization that runs the trust, had let me know about the program because I had shared some of my struggles with her and she made sure I knew to opt into being potentially selected for the program. As my grandmother says, “You never know when you’re entertaining an angel.” And that’s how I feel about her telling me about the program and that I ended up being part of it.
The timing was just perfect—the first check came two days before I lost work. It got me through, because it took about a month for my unemployment to kick in, and then my unemployment stopped at the end of 2020.
Even when I had the money from both the trust and unemployment, it didn’t make up my paycheck from work, so it hasn’t been easy—but I’ve been able to make it. If not for this money, I would have been in the position many Americans were in last year, and probably would have had to lose my apartment and go and live with my grandmother.
For fun, I like to read. And I like to shop—bargain shop, that is! But normally I’m just at home or at my grandmother’s house to help her out. I’ve also thought about writing—I got this thing in the mail a while back, you fill in a story and send it back and maybe they publish it. So I actually filled it out and it’s sitting in a drawer. I haven’t done anything with it because I hate to say it, but I don’t know what my purpose is right now. And that’s a hard feeling at 41.
I do know that I’m a hard worker and I don’t want anything just handed to me; I want to work for it. It just seems like every time I try to do something, it doesn’t work out. And I know you have to try hard—and I do, but I know I could do better.
It just seems like it’s always something. Like going back to school. I was enrolled and going to classes but then my truck broke down and I couldn’t get there. Now I owe back tuition before I can re-enroll but I’m going to pay that money back and return. But I’m not going to give up. You never know, I mean, I could write a book one day and it could do well! For now, I just love to read.
I think me struggling with my purpose has led me to be really supportive of my son, though. Because I want him to have that encouragement to make a plan and follow through with it—basically the things I didn’t have when I was growing up. I was raised by my grandparents, and they didn’t have a lot of education, so that affected how they brought me up.
My goal right now is to go back to school—I just have one more semester left before I get my associate’s degree.
When I went back to school before, I almost didn’t do it because I was so worried about the math. It’s always been a struggle for me. The kids at the community college would be surprised that I would sit in the library and study my math for six or seven hours at a time—that’s how bad I wanted it. Then I went to take this math test, and my mind went completely blank. All that studying and I couldn’t remember a thing.
The teacher was not very nice and didn’t really care that I was having trouble, and I came close to giving up. But then I had this teacher who really encouraged me and was so happy all the time, and he even got me to understand the quadratic equation! I just felt so much better about it all, but then that’s when my truck broke down. And we don’t have reliable public transportation here in Jackson, so I just had no way to get to school. But I am committed to finishing, and I know I will.
There are things I’ve dreamed about doing, like being a counselor. But I worry that I’ve waited too long to do something like that, since it would take a lot more time in school. I think I tell myself the story that it’s too late because in the past it just hasn’t worked out, even when I work so hard for it. I’ve talked to women I’ve met through the trust, including Aisha Nyandoro who runs it, about feeling that way in the past. And they told me that it’s never too late, so I do try and remember that, and it helps. So I try not to give up. I really just want to do better and to be better.
Article originally appeared in Ms Magazine as part of a series: https://msmagazine.com/2021/07/22/front-and-center-8-lakeisha-guaranteed-income-black-mothers-women-magnolia-mothers-trust-jackson-mississippi-unemployment/
To see another post in this series, please visit: https://basicincometoday.com/basic-income-is-helping-chephirah-cover-her-bills-plan-her-future-and-finally-feel-hope/