Front and Center: “Unemployment Helped Me Sustain,” Says Sabrina, a Mother of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust

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.


It’s been a rocky year because of COVID. There was a lot of change, but I was able to maintain through being at home all the time, and also trying to be the teacher with school not being in person. I have three kids—my daughter Jamiyah is 9, my daughter Jaylah is 7 and my son Chance is 6. 

My son lives with me, and right now my two daughters are with family—one is with my aunt and the other is with my mom. I see them every weekend, but we ended up with this living situation because I was taking care of my sick grandmother a few years ago and this setup was better for them given all the demands of dealing with someone who is really ill. 

I was fortunate that my family was able to step up and give me help with them. But I’m really looking forward to having us all back together—my son loves his sisters and they both love their brother so much. My grandmother ended up passing a few years ago, and I’ve been trying to get back on track to where I have all my kids with me, but it’s been hard to keep going. I try as much as possible to just stay positive, and cut out the negative. But it’s hard to do that all the time. 


I try as much as possible to just stay positive, and cut out the negative. But it’s hard to do that all the time.


I grew up in Jackson, went to high school and college here. I had fun in high school, sometimes we’d skip class we’d go out to the reservoir, but I still got good grades. Then after high school, I went to Hinds Community College and got an associate’s degree and worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). I majored in science, and I’m thinking about going back to school for nursing. I was a CNA for several years and worked as a home health aide, but I had to stop to take care of my kids. Most recently, I was working at Costco and got laid off because of COVID. I was working in the department where they give out samples, so they weren’t doing that because of the pandemic. 

It’s been hard. I’m not used to not working and being at the house. And obviously it’s also hard because of the income loss. Unemployment helped me sustain. But now the governor just announced that Mississippi is going to cut us off from extra unemployment benefits so I’ll be losing that $300 a week. It will be tough. I’m a good saver, but it is not going to be easy. I learned to save early on, and that was really important during the pandemic. I do coupons a lot, and I put money to the side and just don’t touch it. It can be hard not to get into my savings, but I just think to myself “what does the light bill cost, what about rent, what if there’s an emergency?”


The governor just announced that Mississippi is going to cut us off from extra unemployment benefits so I’ll be losing that $300 a week. It will be tough. I’m a good saver, but it is not going to be easy.


When I first heard about Magnolia Mother’s Trust, I thought it was a joke, or maybe a scam. But after learning more, I thought, “Let’s just sign these papers and see what happens.”

Being in the program has helped out A LOT. When I got my first check, it was both me and my son’s birthdays. We were able to do things we haven’t been able to do in other years—he had a party at a trampoline place with lunch. I haven’t been able to afford to throw him a party in the last few years. And then my birthday is a couple days after his, and I had a birthday dinner and am planning a little trip next month. 

I have plans for what to do with the money throughout the year—I want to go back to school. And I’ll need to pay off what I owe to school before I can go back. I was paying out-of-pocket because my financial aid got messed up, so I still have a balance there at the community college. It’s about $800, so I’ll need to save up for that. But once I pay it off, I can go back, and then I can get my financial aid sorted so I won’t have to keep paying out of pocket for my tuition. 

I’m not sure yet whether I’ll stay at the community college or try and go to Mississippi College, which has a really good nursing program. I want to be a nurse because I just love helping people. That’s why I originally started off in my CNA program. 

My top three goals for this year I have Magnolia Mother’s Trust support are to get my nursing degree, buy my own home and to get my credit score into the 800 range. I’ve been talking to a realtor about the house, and my credit score right now is good.

Front and Center: "Unemployment Helped Me Sustain," Says Sabrina, a Mother of the Magnolia Mother's Trust
(Art by Brandi Phipps)

My dream house would have five bedrooms, a jacuzzi, an upstairs and a garage. I’ve always wanted a house like that. I know that’s not what I’ll start with, but that’s my goal one day. My kids will love being able to have their own space. Right now we just have a two-bedroom.

Another thing I want to do this year is get my son into a new school. He has dyslexia and that’s been really hard for him. So there’s this school, New Summit, that’s especially for kids who have dyslexia and ADHD. I want to send him there, but the school has tuition. So I’m trying to figure out how to make that work, because I really want him to be somewhere he gets a good education. And I think I’ll be able to get him there soon with the Magnolia money.

I’m going to accomplish these goals. I’m going to push myself to do what I have to do, and nothing is going to stop me this time. I’m positive about that.


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.
  • If you share republished stories on social media, we’d appreciate being tagged in your posts. You can find Ms. on Twitter @MsMagazine, on Instagram @ms_magazine and on Facebook. Springboard to Opportunities is on Twitter @SpringboardToOp, on Instagram @springboard_to and on Facebook.

Have questions on the series? Read more here, and direct specific questions to Kylie Cheung at kcheung@msmagazine.com.

About

Sabrina is a mother of three who was laid off from her retail job at the beginning of the pandemic. She is about to lose her additional unemployment benefits because the state of Mississippi has opted out of the federal program to support workers affected by COVID-19 job loss.