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 was part of the very first Magnolia Mother’s Trust program, back when it was just 20 moms almost three years ago. Then, talking about giving out money wasn’t this thing it is now, but I had a feeling it would be something bigger even back then. Because helping single moms, helping single women —it’s a great cause and people want to get involved with that.
With the program, I was able to take a road trip to see my dad up in Pennsylvania. I hadn’t seen him in 19, 20 years; my kids had never met him. And right before the program, he got sick. And I didn’t even think then I was going to get picked—when it first started, it was just 15 moms. And I wasn’t one of the ones who got it. So I thought, “Okay, I didn’t get it.”
But then they were able to add five more, and I got the call: Sarah from Springboard said, “I have a late Christmas present for you. We got some more funds, and you’ve been selected.” And I was just so excited, because I knew with the money I could go visit him. And my kids and I want to see him every year now. This last year, because of coronavirus, I wasn’t able to keep that up. But I’m really trying to see him this summer, my three kids and I will probably go for a week or two.
For the women who are about to start getting the money, my advice to them would be to map it all out—like, write down what you want to do. Whether that’s paying off something, buying something, getting a new car, getting your credit straight, buying a house. Write it all down, map it out and make a budget plan.
I did that, and my two big goals were to get my credit right and get into a house. I was able to do both of those things, and see my dad, which is something I’d been wanting to do for so long. I do wish I had saved more. When people would need something, I would help them, so that meant there were some things I wasn’t able to do.
But I did most of what I wanted to do, and I also changed personally. I just wasn’t so stressed out about everything, because it’s different when you have that little extra help. My rent went up, and that was okay, I could handle it. My car broke down, I was able to get it fixed right away. Things would happen, but I could take care of them. Before, I would’ve had to wait at least until the next pay period to take my car in. It was always just living paycheck to paycheck.
It’s different when you have that little extra help. My rent went up, and that was okay, I could handle it. My car broke down, I was able to get it fixed right away. Things would happen, but I could take care of them.
So knowing I had the money to cover things was huge. There were even times I was scared to spend it because I just liked knowing it was there. But then I figured, you know, it’s there, I have it, I can splurge a little. So I’d do stuff with my kids that I wasn’t able to before, just places, or go out to eat and if they wanted something I could buy it for them. I was even able to buy some little things for me, because normally I would just save my money to spend on my kids, not spend it on anything for me. So for the first time I didn’t feel guilty about spending a little on myself.
Then there’s just knowing that if your kids get sick, it’s going to be okay. That if needed to, I could take time off to care for my child without having to worry that my paycheck would be short. So that felt really, really good. Normally, I’d have to move something around to cover taking time off. But my baby got sick and I was able to say, “Okay, I have some money in the bank, it’s going to be fine.” To not have that stress, it was wonderful. Won-der-ful.
There’s just knowing that if your kids get sick, it’s going to be okay. That if needed to, I could take time off to care for my child without having to worry that my paycheck would be short. That felt really, really good.
I know people say that if you have programs like these, people will stop working. I don’t personally understand that—I mean, I think it’s fine if someone made that choice, but for me I’ll always want to be working, I want to be adding to my money, not decreasing it. It’s not about not working; it’s about just being able to take a little time off—to take a week and spend it with your kids, then go back to work. I wasn’t able to do that before, to have that time off without being worried about covering the bills.
And I’m still doing okay, even with the year of getting the money over. I was prepared for that to happen, we always knew it was temporary, and so I had been saving more toward the end. And the things I was able to do in that year, I’m still benefiting from now. And I really don’t think I would’ve been able to do those things otherwise, or it would’ve taken so much longer. So just being able to accomplish things faster, that was huge.
For me, being able to get out of affordable housing was such a big step. In those apartments, the walls are thin, you can hear everything. Now I have a house, and through the walls I hear the kids playing in the yard. They can just run, they have a trampoline and they can just go crazy. I even let them get a dog last year during the pandemic, Bella.
And to have all of that, it just feels awesome. And I get emotional talking about it, but I just feel very honored. Because I was able to get that little push, and that’s what I needed. And so many people need that, just a little push.
Front and Center pieces are free to republish, under the following guidelines:
- To ensure context isn’t lost, at the top of your reprint, include a line that reads: “Front and Center is a series of op-eds—published by Ms. magazine and created in partnership with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust—highlighting the success of Springboard to Opportunities’ Magnolia Mother’s Trust program, which this year will give $1,000 per month for 12 months to 100 families headed by Black women living in federally subsidized housing. The series 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.” (You can use editorial discretion to alter or shorten the text slightly.)
- You may also republish the photographs included in this story.
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