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.
Catrina first shared her story with Ms. in 2022. Since she stopped receiving funds through the Magnolia Mother’s Trust program, she’s now on disability for ongoing health issues, but hopes to one day return to the job she loves caring for the elderly.
My name is Catrina, I’m 34 years old and I live in subsidized housing in Jackson, Miss. I finished receiving funds from the Magnolia Mother’s Trust in April of this year. Since then, my income has changed a lot. I’m no longer able to work due to health issues. Luckily, I was approved for disability about a month after MMT ended.
The conversations I’ve had while applying for benefits are difficult. Just getting told ‘no’ over and over, or, ‘You have to make do with what you get.’ And so I do—I make do.
The trust impacted my life in a big way. I was able to pay off some of my debt, make sure my bills got paid on time, and I did a little trip with my children. We went to Atlanta and to Florida; it was the first time they’d been out of the state. We all really enjoyed the trip, it was nice to just get out of the house. My baby girl especially enjoyed meeting new kids and going places. Before MMT, we didn’t take a lot of trips because I was working so much and we didn’t have enough funds to cover everything.
The program also allowed me to meet new people, and get mentors. The folks running the program were concerned about our well-being and how we felt about everything, and MMT still checks up on us to see if we’re all right and if there’s anything we need help with.
Right now, my monthly disability check isn’t enough to cover all of my expenses. My car isn’t working, and I could use help food wise. Once I was approved for disability I was no longer able to receive food stamps.
The government thinks that the money we receive through disability is enough to cover everything, but it honestly isn’t. Once I pay all the bills, get household supplies, and make sure my kids are taken care of, there’s no money left for myself, or to help out if something comes up. It’s all gone in a day or two. So the rest of the month we’re just left waiting for the next check.
The conversations I’ve had while applying for benefits are difficult. Just getting told “no” over and over, or, “You have to make do with what you get.”
And so I do—I make do.
Honestly, I think the state of Mississippi is being stingy. The funds are there, so why not give help to those in need?
I’m number one for believing that able-bodied people need to work. When I was a full able-bodied person, even though I had health issues, I still got up six to seven days a week and worked anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day. I worked my butt off. But right now, I’m not able to work. I’ve been officially diagnosed as disabled and I believe that people like me still deserve to be able to meet our basic needs, and to be able to live a life where we can take care of ourselves and our kids in the same way everybody else can.
The government thinks that the money we receive through disability is enough to cover everything, but it honestly isn’t.
If working was an option, I’d love to go back to caring for elderly people. I enjoy making them feel special. Fixing them breakfast and lunch, grooming their hair, picking out clothes—or even just sitting and having a conversation, because some of them don’t even have that.
I find joy in waking up to see another day. Even though I’m discouraged because I’m not working and really want to go back to work, I know that I have to get my health under control first. But I try to get myself in any program or event that Springboard has to get me up out of my apartment. I find joy when I’m with other people.
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.
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