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.
My name is Shaquille and I’m 29 years old. I have two babies—Carter, who is 7 and in second grade; and Brooklyn, who is 1. My aunt and uncle helped me out during the pregnancy which made everything a little easier. I was on food stamps already, and when I got pregnant I signed up for WIC (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children). I had a good caseworker who was super supportive and helpful.
When Brooklyn was born, I took some time off, but before that I’d been doing hair for 13 years. I enjoyed it. It’s fun because you run into different people and meet different personalities. But I felt like it was time to switch gears, so I enrolled in school for dental assisting. I’m at the beginning of a career change.
Before the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, my monthly income wasn’t very much, since I’d just had a baby and because of COVID. My monthly expenses were more than what I was able to bring in each month. The only income I had was when people were looking to get their hair done.
Since this was during the pandemic, I was worried about my kids’ health, so I had to make rules. People had to come to me and they couldn’t bring anybody extra with them. I had some loyal customers who waited until my baby got her shots. I made it work because, as a mother, I can’t give excuses. I gotta get it done—because if I don’t, who will?
When I found out I was selected for Magnolia Mother’s Trust, I couldn’t believe it. Things like this don’t happen for me. The same phone number had called me twice and I wondered, “Who is this?” The voice said, “This is Jessica from Magnolia Mother’s Trust,” and I dropped right into the middle of the kitchen floor! I was so excited. I was planning my baby’s first birthday party and I thought, “Here comes the money that’s gonna help.”
I made it work because, as a mother, I can’t give excuses. I gotta get it done—because if I don’t, who will?
I was able to give my daughter a custom-made outfit for her birthday. Her shoes, shorts, and shirt all had her name on it. She had so much fun, and she started walking on her birthday! I was never able to do that for my son.
It’s hard as a parent to tell your child, “I don’t have the money for that, baby.” I made do with the money I had, and my daughter is only 1 so she doesn’t understand yet, but Carter is an intelligent little fellow. He understands. Carter is gonna be tall and he’s growing every day. He keeps outgrowing his shoes. Brooklyn’s clothes are little girl clothes, and it’s much easier to find little girl clothes than boy clothes! I have to go hunting for his clothes. If I find a pair of pants that are good material, and will last after I wash them, I buy them.
I can get them things now. Carter’s birthday is coming up and he knows that Momma is going to do something for birthday. He passed the first grade, his behavior is getting better, and his handwriting is getting better. I want Carter to be like all the other kids. The trust helps me hold up my end of the deal to my son and not let him down. It has really helped me and my little family. We’re able to actually enjoy life a little bit more now.
[The Magnolia Mother’s Trust] has really helped me and my little family. We’re able to actually enjoy life a little bit more now.
I don’t want to ask to borrow, borrow, borrow; so my goal while I’m in the program is to continue to save. That was the hardest part for me in the beginning. I’d like to own a house someday, but at the moment I’m looking to rent. The first thing I need to do is get a job that’s gonna help me if I purchase. Because if you buy a house, you’re going to be a homeowner, and anything that goes wrong, that’s on you. You have to pay out of pocket for those things and I want to have a good job where I can do that. I don’t want to get there and struggle. My uncle just bought land and had a house built. He’s got a great job. If he can do it, I can do it.
I don’t want my children to ever worry about having somewhere to stay. I never want them to experience homelessness. After you pass, you’re not here anymore so you gotta make sure everything’s in order. Whenever I depart from this world, I want to make sure that they have what they need.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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