Front and Center: Guaranteed Income Helped Me Survive the Pandemic and Find “Moments of Joy,” Says Magnolia Mother’s Trust Mom

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 born and raised in Jackson, but I’ve done a little traveling. I have a lot of family in Texas, so I’ve spent a lot of time there. My favorite city there is Arlington because they have an incredible flea market; you can get anything there dirt cheap. You see, I’m a thrift shopper—I like to find things for a good deal and then DIY them to change them up. 

I have an 8-year-old daughter, Ciana—she is amazing. She is my little support buddy. I want her to grow up to be happy, and a part of that to me is making sure she is financially okay. I want her to go to college and be successful and to have her own finances and not have to worry about relying on anyone else. She’s very artistic and creative; she talks about one day being a celebrity hairdresser but she also loves to draw. I just want her to know that whatever she wants to be, I’ll encourage her.

When the pandemic first hit, I was working as a certified nursing assistant as a private carer. I was doing that seven days a week. But COVID knocked out all that job. Right around that time, I got this mysterious letter about applying for this program called the Magnolia Mother’s Trust. I wasn’t going to do it at first because I just figured there was no chance I’d actually get it because it sounded too good to be true that you’d just get this money—but my contact at Springboard, the organization that oversees the program, told me I should just see what happens. So I did, and I was selected.

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(Art by Brandi Phipps)

I was really just shocked. It really couldn’t have come at a better time. Without that money, I truly don’t know how I would’ve survived the pandemic.

Aside from just being able to survive and buy toilet paper and pay my bills, it allowed me to—even at a very hard time—have moments of joy. Like, my daughter had never been to the beach. And so before the pandemic hit I had promised her I was going to take a weekend off to go. And then when I lost my job but had the money from the program, I was able to finally bring her to the beach. And she loved every moment of it.

Right now I’m not currently working. I was working at a warehouse up until recently, but when school started back up this fall, I had to leave the warehouse job because there was no one to help my daughter get to and from her own school. They wanted me to work 12-hour shifts, and there’s just no way to do that when you have a little kid who needs to get on and off the bus around a normal school day. I tried to get my manager to help me work around it, but he wouldn’t budge.

I had to be at work at 5 a.m. and her bus doesn’t come until 7 a.m. and you know what he said? He said to just leave her outside and let her wait. He told me that twice. He said I had to make a decision, and so I did. I left. Motherhood comes first. But that experience hurt, even though I know I did the right thing and walked away with a smile.


I had to be at work at 5 a.m. and her bus doesn’t come until 7 a.m. … [My manager] said to just leave her outside and let her wait. … He said I had to make a decision, and so I did. I left.


My dream job would be a motivational speaker. I love to hear other people’s stories, but I like to share mine as well. I just want to listen to people and help them.

The new child tax credit payments have helped me a lot, especially since I’ve just gone from getting paid every week to having zero income. It’s helped to put shoes on my daughter’s feet and food in the fridge until my SNAP benefits come through. It’s a big relief to wake up and just know, “Okay, I’m not going to have to borrow money today because I have that extra help coming in.” It’s very helpful.

You know I’m not going to lie, it’s a hard time right now. But it gives me hope to know I have a lot of people behind me. I have my faith, I have the support of my family, the support of the Springboard folks and the support of my daughter. And all that makes me feel like I’m going to be okay.


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 Katie Fleischer at [email protected].

About

Sequaya was a recipient of the second round of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, which began just after she lost her job during the pandemic as an in-home caretaker.