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’m 29 and live in Jackson with my 4-year-old daughter. She’s in daycare right now, then she’ll start kindergarten next year. I work as a vocational tech, helping students with intellectual disabilities. Overall I enjoy the job, but it does get challenging because there are so many people to take care of, and since they have physical issues on top of learning problems, it can at times be a lot to handle.
My dream job is being a nurse. It’s a steady job with good income—plus I really like the idea of helping people and making them better. I took some classes toward it at the Institute of Health and Technology, a for-profit private school out here in Jackson, but never finished because COVID hit and the school shut down its campus here, and now I have $10,000 in loans I need to pay off before I can re-enroll.
With my current job, I make about $1,500 a month. I also only get paid once a month, at the very end of the month, so it’s very tough to make that last for 30, 31 days. That’s just not enough to cover all the expenses for me and my daughter, so some months I would fall very short when unexpected things come up, like my car breaking down or a family member needing some help. I try to manage my money well, but you can’t manage money that isn’t there. So a lot of times I’d have to borrow money from my parents, and that would just put me behind when I eventually did get paid, since I have to make sure they get reimbursed first so that they’ll keep lending me money when I need it again.
I don’t get official child support from my child’s father; he just gives me some money for groceries here and there. I have a lawyer and do want to see about getting regular child support payments, but first I’d need to get all the money to pay the lawyer upfront, and that’s a lot. The last year has been especially stressful not having any support and needing to pay for my daughter’s childcare so I can keep going to work. As a single mom, it’s very hard — basically, if I don’t make it happen for my daughter, it’s not going to happen.
I don’t get official child support from my child’s father. I do want to see about getting regular child support payments, but first I’d need to get all the money to pay the lawyer upfront, and that’s a lot.
It was helpful for that part of last year to get the child tax credit payments every month. That really helped me catch up on bills, and I was also able to take my daughter out of town and see things she wouldn’t here in Jackson which I wouldn’t normally have the resources to do.
And when I found out this year I got selected for the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, my heart just about jumped out of my chest with excitement. I’ve been getting the $1,000 payments for a few months now and it’s really helped me catch up with bills. Now I know with the higher prices of food, I can afford to get what I need for my daughter.
When people say that programs like this will stop people from working, it just makes no sense to me. $1,000 isn’t enough for me to quit my job and is less than what I make, and what I make from working isn’t enough to cover all my bills. People like me need more income; we’re not trying to have less than what we started with.
My goal for the rest of the year I have these payments coming in is to work on transitioning into a job that provides more of a career and better pay than what I currently do. I know I need to have a job like that to support my daughter. I want to be able to provide for her, which doesn’t mean buying her everything she wants, but it does mean not always having to tell her to put something back or wait until payday. And a longer-term dream I have is to buy some land and have a little house built on it, so that one day when I’m gone my daughter has something valuable that I gave her.
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.