Front and Center: ‘Before the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, I Was Working Seven Days a Week’

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 am a 33-year-old single mom and I live with my two daughters—Indiana is almost 11, and Island just turned 8.

I work full-time as a security guard. It’s a job, it’s fine. I’m a convicted felon so it’s hard to find a job that I’d really like to work. It’s hard to try and get the criminal charge off my record. It’s been on there since 2010 and I didn’t do any jail time—I just pleaded guilty to a charge. The only way I can get it off my record is to get a lawyer, which is expensive. It’s stopped me from working at bigger places or getting better jobs. I can’t work at a hospital, for instance.  

If I could have any job in the world I’d like to go back to school to get an associate’s degree in social work so I could help kids. I’m drawn to helping the well-being of others, making sure these kids are not in turmoil and that their life is going the way it should go. 

Before the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, I was working seven days a week. I make $10.72 and I work 42 hours a week, because they recently cut my hours. Before, I was working 12-14 hours, every day, no day off. 

front-and-center-3-child-tax-credit-guaranteed-income-black-mothers-women-covid-magnolia-mothers-trust-jackson-mississippi
(Art by Brandi Phipps)

The guaranteed income has helped me a lot, I’m getting my credit score straight. And it’s helping me afford life in general since prices are going up on everything! I’m spending so much on gas—$40-$100 every few days because I’m having to borrow a friend’s truck to get to work on my hour commute because my little gas-efficient car isn’t working. Since I’m an outside security guard, I also stay in the car in the heat while I’m working, but my employer doesn’t give any kind of compensation for the gas for when I’m working and I have to turn the car on and run the air conditioning to get through the shift.

I worked through the whole pandemic. I didn’t get any unemployment or anything, so it was great to receive the stimulus checks and the expanded child tax credit last year—I think the president did us right with that. Taking care of two kids is hard, and I was also trying to help folks who were homeless during that time by buying up some stuff at Walmart and then giving it out at the park.

I am a hard worker. I try to work all the hours I can. My mom always told me, “You don’t work, you don’t eat.” Bringing in as much income helps me not stress as much, and I have high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, so it’s important that I try and keep my stress down as much as possible for health reasons. So when I found out I was selected for the trust I was so happy, I was like a kid in a candy store.

I’m drawn to helping the well-being of others, making sure kids are not in turmoil and that their life is going the way it should go.

It’s been a few months of getting the guaranteed income, and I definitely see an increase in happiness with both me and my kids. I still have to budget, but I’m able to get them more things that they need and even have some left over to be able to reward them with little extras when I can—though making sure my bills are all paid up is always my number one priority. Since I’m in and out of the hospital with my heart issues, it’s really important to me that all those basic expenses are set and that my kids have what they need for school, the insurance is paid and that things are just stocked up in our household in case anything happens.

Another thing the trust money has helped me with is my credit score. I had a lot of old bills on there that I’ve been able to pay off to get that number up, and it feels good to know that I can go on a car lot and be approved for a loan now. 

And this is kind of personal, but one of the goals I have while this money is coming in is to get back custody of my oldest child, who currently lives with her father and he hasn’t allowed me to see her. So if I can save up the money for a lawyer, I’m hoping that I can get her back.

More long-term, I would one day like to own a home. I’d like to have something to be able to leave my children, and that they could then leave to their children. But that’s a ways off since I’m still working on my credit score, and then of course there are all the financial concerns of having the money to purchase a home and all the new bills that come with that, since you’re responsible for everything and it’s not like living in an apartment. And I just don’t have that kind of money right now.

I worked through the whole pandemic. I didn’t get any unemployment or anything, so it was great to receive the stimulus checks and the expanded child tax credit last year—I think the president did us right with that.

One day I hope we have a national program like the trust because there are so many hardworking people who are still living in poverty and they just really need that extra help. Otherwise, you have minority kids out there getting in trouble to try and survive and then they’re just messing up their own life, you know?

Some of us get second chances and some of us don’t. And that’s why we need more programs like this.


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

Catrina is a single mom who works over 40 hours a week as a security guard and dreams of becoming a social worker helping children one day. She is a member of the fourth cohort of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust.