On the Issues with Michele Goodwin

33. Messages to Mom: We Have Your Back (with Rep. Katie Porter, Nicole Lynn Lewis, Dr. Aisha Nyandoro and Tamara Ware)


May 6, 2021

With Guests:

  • Representative Katie Porter represents the 45th congressional district in Orange County, Calif. She is a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the House Natural Resources Committee, and chair of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. As a single working mom, Rep. Porter knows firsthand about the challenges that families face. She’s introduced bipartisan legislation that would more than double the amount families can set aside pre-tax to help pay for pre-school, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child or adult day care.
  • Nicole Lynn Lewis, founder of Generation Hope, which works with teen parents to apply to, enter and stay in college. She is a former teen mother herself, who put herself through the College of William & Mary with her three-month old daughter in tow. Lewis has been featured on major news outlets including Good Morning America, CNN, NBC Nightly News and The Washington Post. Nicole also serves as an Ascend national advisor with the Aspen Institute and a nationally known author and speaker. Her newest book, Pregnant Girl, was released on May 4, 2021 by Beacon Press.
  • Dr. Aisha Nyandoro, CEO of Springboard To Opportunities and director of 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. Nyandoro has more than a decade of experience developing, implementing and evaluating programs aimed at improving the quality of life for individuals with limited resources. She has worked in various capacities—as an academic, evaluator, philanthropist and nonprofit executive. Prior to serving with Springboard, Aisha served as a program officer with the Foundation for the Mid-South.
  • Tamara Ware, a caregiver and the mother of three beautiful girls. Ware was in Springboard To Opportunities’ second cohort of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust.
Messages to Mom: We Have Your Back (with Rep. Katie Porter, Nicole Lynn Lewis, Dr. Aisha Nyandoro and Tamara Ware)

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In this Episode:

“Other countries have social safety nets. The U.S. has women.” 
—Professor Jessica Calarco

In this episode, we’re focusing on moms, child care, single parenting and teen parenting. We know that women have been hit hard by COVID—causing many to dub the economic downturn a “she-cession.” And as it stands, current U.S. laws and policies are woefully inadequate—leaving mothers, particularly mothers living with low incomes, behind. Luckily, women-led organizations are helping moms by filling in the gaps.

How are moms making it through the pandemic? And, how do single moms fit in, especially teenage moms? What should parents generally, and mothers in particular, be demanding of lawmakers and the Biden administration? What are the best ways for the U.S. to ‘build back better’ after pandemic?
We also hear from some of our listeners who are giving shoutouts to the mothers–and stand-in moms—in their lives!

Have a topic you’d like us to delve into, a guest recommendationor just want to say hi? Drop us a line at ontheissues@msmagazine.com.

Background Reading:


0:00:00 Michele Goodwin:

Welcome to “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” at Ms. Magazine, a show where we report, rebel and tell it like it is. On this show, we center your concerns about rebuilding our nation and advancing the promise of equality. Join me as we tackle the most compelling issues of our times. On this show, history matters. We examine the past as we think about the future. Now, on today’s episode, we focus on moms, childcare, single parenting, and teen parenting. We know that women have been hard-hit by the global pandemic. Professor Jessica Calarco put it this way: Other countries have social safety nets, the US has women. Now, the Center for American Progress framed it this way, back in February: Over the course of the first 10 months of the pandemic, women, particularly women of color, lost more jobs than men

What does this mean? Overall, according to Diana Boesch and Shilpa Phadke, women have lost a net of 5.4 million jobs during the recession, nearly 1 million more job losses than men, and the scary part hides in plain sight. In a recent report, written by Boesch and Phadke, they say the job losses in December 2020 are a stark illustration of these trends. Black, Hispanic, and Asian women accounted for all of the women’s job losses that month, and 154 thousand Black women dropped out of the labor force entirely. Forget about calling this a recession. They’re telling us take a page from Dr. C. Nicole Mason’s book. She’s President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and she’s calling this a she-cession

So, in this episode, we celebrate moms. And we also hear from some of our listeners who are giving shout-outs to the women in their lives, and you can find those postings on our website, too, at MsMagazine.com, but we also level-set. Moms are feisty, sure, helping with homework, putting food on the table, and picking up the laundry, and packing lunches that are being eaten at home, but let’s get real. A lot of moms are tired, and some are ticked off, and they just don’t have time for the nonsense or what Representative Katie Porter calls the BS. When asked by talk-show host Samantha Bee about appearing in the nightmares of Republicans in Congress, here’s what Representative Katie Porter had to say.

0:03:00 Rep. Katie Porter:

No, I think that’s a very comfortable role for me. If you’re full of bullshit, I’m coming for you. Like, I just don’t have time. I’m a single mom, the dinner’s burning, I’m late to something, and I have 4 thousand emails, my hair’s frizzy, I haven’t shaved my legs in a week, no bullshit.

0:03:17 Michele Goodwin:

Needless to say, that clip went viral, but Representative Porter’s not the only mother bringing honesty to what mothering is like. In 2018, Michelle Obama sat down with journalist Gayle King and honestly opened up about marriage, mothering, and going to counseling. As she put it, “It all works until you have kids, your first joint project where inequalities are felt.” Michelle Obama was a working mom before President Obama’s 2008 win, and as the former First Lady told Gayle King, she was managing childcare…

0:03:57 Michelle Obama:

And sick kids and trying to coordinate my job, and he’s flittering in. Tensions started to arise, and we knew that we needed to have a place where we could really work these feelings out.

0:04:12 Gayle King:

Was he like, great, let’s go to counseling?

0:04:14 Michelle Obama:

Oh, no.

0:04:14 Gayle King:

Yeah, “I can’t wait to go!”

0:04:17 Michelle Obama:

You know he was, Barack is a problem-solver. It’s like I’ll buy a book, and we will study.

0:04:20 Gayle King:

On relationships?

0:04:22 Michelle Obama:

On relationships. And we will study chapter 12, you read chapter 13, and we can figure this out.

Michelle Obama speaks at an event in Phoenix, Arizona in 2016 (Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

0:04:29 Michele Goodwin:
So, if Michelle Obama is trying to figure it all out, what about everybody else? We have a great episode for you, one that touches on the realities of mothering in these times. In this episode, we explore whether current laws and policies leave mothers behind, particularly moms living with low incomes. What should parents generally, and mothers in particular, be asking or demanding of their legislators and the Biden/Harris Administration, and how do single moms fit in, especially teenage moms? How do moms build back after pandemic? 

Now, I begin this special moms edition with Representative Katie Porter. Congresswoman Katie Porter represents the 45th Congressional District in Orange County, California. She knows, firsthand, about the challenges that families face and has introduced bipartisan legislation that would more than double the amount families can set aside, pre-tax, to help pay for preschool, summer day camp, before and after-school programs, and child or adult daycare. 

So, Representative Porter, you’ve been outspoken about being a single mom while in Congress. How has that informed your work in the legislature, because that’s more than…it’s not rhetoric. What you’re doing when you speak about being a single mom in Congress is really level-setting in a whole different way, and can you tell our listening audience a bit about that?

0:06:03 Katie Porter:

Well, I’m definitely living the real dream as a single mom. My children are now 15, 12, and 9, but I started, you know, running for office years before this and of course was a working professional before I ran for office. So, you know, when I think I started this process of being a representative, I didn’t think that much about being a single mom. It was part of who I was, but I didn’t see it as that politically significant. I thought, well, it’s my expertise on consumer law, it’s my expertise on housing, and then I got to Congress, and I was trying to meet people, and I thought, you know, I’ve met a lot of these kinds of people and a lot of those kinds of people, let me meet the other single moms, and there were none in the 116th Congress. Not one single mom, besides me, on either side of the aisle, at that time, despite there being millions and millions of people who are single parents in this country.

0:07:02 Michele Goodwin:

And so, what does that mean, then, when there’s that lack of representation in Congress? We’re not talking about a pod of you being 1 out of 10 or 15 or 20. We’re talking about you being 1 out of hundreds.

0:07:16 Katie Porter:
1 out of 435, and I think one of the things that happens is, you know, kind of what is an urgent issue to me and how I think about what’s the real-life effect of policies is just colored by my experience as a single mom, as other people’s experiences, you know, color how they think about things. So, a great example of this is, you know, in the pandemic, when, over a year ago, when schools closed, that was a really tough day, really tough week, trying to figure out what I was going to do, and it was tough for millions of American parents, especially mothers of young children, and I remember saying to someone, in June, we really have to start working on how we’re going to get schools reopened, and they said, you know, I haven’t thought about that, I mean, school reopening is a long ways away, in August.

And boy, I started thinking about it the very day my kids’ school closed, and so, I think one of the things I push back a lot is, you know, when I say things, they’ll say, well, your situation’s so special. It’s really not. Single moms are just one more kind of family dynamic that we have in this country. We have grandparents raising kids. We have people living with roommates, same-sex couples, and these are all part of the fabric of what it means to be an American family, and so, at its core, what I’m fighting for is the ability of every American family, regardless of its structure, to be successful in our economy and be treated equally in our society.

0:08:44 Michele Goodwin:

Because that means something for the kids, too. You know, in fact, when I hear that, you felt it on the day that other Americans felt it. There was nobody else that was special to pick up those pieces. You had to do that work.

0:08:57 Katie Porter:
No, the people who didn’t feel it were these elected officials, but they are the unusual ones, right? The rest of America was panicking on the day those kids showed back up and said, mom, I’m home for the rest of the year, and it turned out to be truly a full year, in many instances. So, I do think that, you know, kind of what you see as problems and how you relate to them, and I think I just read policies differently. So, another great example of this is President Biden proposed and Congress has expanded the child tax credit

Sure, you’ve talked about that a lot, it’s a terrific policy, it can help lift half of American children out of poverty, and we’re fighting now to try to make that expansion permanent, but when I read it, one of the things I immediately noticed was that children who are living in single-parent households are less likely to qualify for the child tax credit and are going to receive less money in many instances, and it’s a child tax credit. If the benefit is for the child, no kid should get less because their parents are divorced or widowed or married. There’s no discount on being a single parent. When I take my kids to summer camp or the grocery store, everything costs exactly the same, and so, if we want to support children, we shouldn’t be punishing them depending on their parents’ status. So, we call this the single-parent penalty, and I’ve been fighting to try to get this changed as we go to make the child tax credit expansion permanent.

0:10:27 Michele Goodwin:

And to just underscore that, I’m so happy that you mentioned that, it reminds me, actually, of a speech that Reverend Jackson gave when he was running for office in ’84 or ’88, and he was talking about unequal pay. So, not only is there being a single parent, a single mom, but you’re also already talking about pay disparities, and you’re right. You don’t get a discount on the cost of milk, the cost of bread, the cost of your kids’ cereal, and so, that’s an excellent point. Well, to think about some of the legislation that you’ve also been working on because you are in the trenches, and the Family Savings for Kids and Seniors Act is just one of those, and that was introduced during this period of pandemic. So, what’s that about? Can you tell us a bit?

0:11:13 Katie Porter:

So, that’s a bipartisan bill, the Family Savings for Kids and Seniors Act. I introduced it last Congress and reintroduced it again, and what it would do is allow workers to save more of their own money, tax-free, to pay for the cost of childcare or eldercare so that they can go to work, and so, we know that with small businesses, if you need a printer to be able to work, you can deduct that printer as a business expense, and so, we ought to be letting people save more money to pay for childcare, and this amount that you can save, right now, it’s 5 thousand dollars. Doesn’t matter if you have 1 child or 10, it’s 5 thousand dollars, flat, and I always used to wonder, I was fortunate to work at University of California Irvine, where we have this benefit, and I would always think, who thinks childcare is 5 thousand dollars a year?

0:12:06 Michele Goodwin:

I know, right? People are paying mortgage-level…

0:12:06 Katie Porter:

It is so much more than that.

0:12:09 Michele Goodwin:


0:12:10 Katie Porter: 

I got to Congress, and when I started working on this bill, I got my answer, Ronald Reagan. This was a Ronald Reagan bill, passed in 1986, and to allow people to set aside 5 thousand dollars, and there’s two important things there, one, this was bipartisan then, it should be bipartisan now. Every mother, every father, every daughter or son who’s caring for a parent needs some help, sometimes, whether it’s full-time or part-time or occasional, and the second thing is 1986, 5 thousand dollars! Childcare is one of the fastest, most fast, rapidly-increasing expenses that families have. We hear so much about the rising price of drugs, the rising price of college. The rising price of childcare, in many cases and in many parts of the country, outstrips those.

0:12:59 Michele Goodwin:

Well, that’s absolutely right. I mean I’ve heard of instances, quite honestly, of people who are law professors and medical school professors who are saying that they can’t have kids because they can’t afford childcare and then can’t afford schooling, and you say, okay, if these folks can’t afford it, then how are other people to struggle and make it with having kids? You know we’re just sending mixed messages in our society about have kids, love your kids, etcetera, and then all of the penalties and lack of support that comes with having kids.

0:13:34 Katie Porter:

Well, and you and I, and you know, and Ms., certainly, you know, the commitment here is to allowing each person to make their own decisions to craft the kind of family and work and life choices that they want, that work for them, and so, for some people, that will mean no kids. For some people, it’ll mean 4 or 5 or 6 kids, but we want people to have those opportunities, and you know, you’re really right that there are people who are making choices solely because of what’s economically possible, and it’s not just those who are earning minimum wage. Childcare remains unaffordable virtually for anybody, and here’s a quick way to see why. When my daughter, Betsy, went to preschool, at the University of California Irvine, it’s a lovely preschool, it’s in an older building, was built kind of back when the university got started, her tuition as a 4-year-old was more than it would’ve been for her to be an undergraduate at UCI, studying chemistry or political science or math.

0:13:34 Michele Goodwin:


0:14:38 Katie Porter:

So, every time you hear someone say college is so unaffordable, just substitute the word childcare and you understand exactly how hard this is, but we don’t talk about it in the same way. There’s a lot of hand-wringing about how we should help parents afford and kids afford college, but when it comes to young childcare, that’s so often been said that’s just the parents’ responsibility, but by parent, what we really so often mean is mom.

0:15:07 Michele Goodwin:

Yeah. Yeah. No. You are so absolutely right and then women having to stitch it all together to try to help each other out. So, in thinking about the legislation that you’ve been pushing forward, there’s also the No Surprise Bills for New Moms Act. What’s that about?

0:15:25 Katie Porter:

Yeah, the No Surprise Bills for New Moms Act, this is such a good fix on a relatively straightforward problem, and it’s the kind of gotcha that I think every mom hates. You try to read the forms. You try to fill everything out. You know, and you still end up missing something. When you go to have a child, when somebody goes to have a child, there’s a period in which you have to add that baby to your insurance, and it’s short. It’s like 14 days.

0:15:54 Michele Goodwin:

Oh my gosh.

0:15:55 Katie Porter:

For a lot of moms, you are really sick, still, at 14 days. You may still be in the hospital. You may be struggling to nurse. You’re sleep-deprived, and so, the idea here is to create a longer time period and more reminders so that we can make sure that babies get put on their parents’ insurance. Nobody’s leaving their infant uninsured on purpose. This is really a gotcha by the insurance companies, and for new moms, it can wind up being 10s of thousands of dollars right off the start.

0:16:25 Michele Goodwin:
You know, wait, just like wait a second, Rep Porter, because this sounds crazy, absolutely crazy that someone has two weeks after childbirth, which could be by C-section, could be dangerous, you know, I mean, you can’t imagine that you get just two weeks and otherwise you suffer this incredible economic penalty. Who in the world ever thought of this? And you’ve mentioned insurance companies, but because you just can’t imagine that after…

0:16:53 Katie Porter:
Well, and I think it’s hard for a lot of people who haven’t been there, who haven’t had kids, to understand that just because you’re out of the hospital doesn’t mean you’re well, right?

0:17:03 Michele Goodwin:


0:17:04 Katie Porter:
I mean it’s, you know, childbirth is a natural experience. You’re not sick, but you may also not be well. So, this is another bipartisan bill. I think it’s a really terrific one, and the fact that there are so many opportunities to raise these issues, right, at this point in time, and we’ve had some women in political bodies. I mean, today, women are still 25 percent of Congress, 25 percent. So, whenever I hear anyone say, there’s just so many women in Congress these days, I think, so many women? Like, that’s what shows up at a, you know, a Nordstrom Rack sale.

0:17:41 Michele Goodwin:


0:17:41 Katie Porter:

Not so many women, right, in Congress. We’re still the minority, and particularly different kinds of women, younger women, single mothers. Two good examples, women in the sciences. These folks are still underrepresented in our political body, and it shows, sometimes, in how we make policy.

0:18:01 Michele Goodwin:
No. You are so absolutely right. That’s why we’re so happy that you’re there. So, there’s a report that you recently released that found that during the pandemic, the lack of support from both government and employers for balancing work, home, and childcare responsibilities is pushing women out of the labor force. Can you explain a little bit more about that, too, because just as we’ve been talking about, there are just blind spots that people just may not be seeing. They see more women in the workforce, and they don’t understand that just what this pandemic has done.

0:18:36 Katie Porter:
Well, this grew, in a way, out of my own personal experience. I remember in about July, about a year ago, saying I don’t know if I can keep doing this. Like, my kids were still just doing virtual school.

Porter and family at a rally in 2019 (Katie Porter / Facebook)

0:18:47 Michele Goodwin:
No, not you!

0:18:50 Katie Porter:
Like, I wasn’t as skilled or still, you know, I wouldn’t be unmuted on the Zoom, and I didn’t have good lighting, and you know, I wasn’t as good at, you know, figuring out how to communicate on Zoom, and I remember saying, like, I don’t know if I can keep doing this, and I had a friend who said to me a lot of people can’t, like, you know, a lot of people are leaving, and I started thinking about it and talking to my friends, and we got a report from the National Economic Council and really saw what the problem is. I mean McKinsey, which is not exactly a women’s rights organization, found that there was this huge exodus of women last summer, in the months following the pandemic, and we are seeing those jobs come back, but we’re not necessarily seeing women come back into the workforce

So, here’s a hard statistic that demonstrates this. Women’s workforce participation, today, is at the same level it was in 1988. It’s the lowest level since 1988. So, we have lost about a generation and a half in terms of women’s workforce participation, and this matters. It matters for women’s retirement security, it matters for women having access to childcare and sick leave, and it matters for the vitality and expertise in our workforce. So, whether you have kids or not, whether you’ve had to step out of the workforce or not, everybody should care about making sure that our most talented Americans are able to continue to go to work. It’s an economic issue, and it’s one that, frankly, our country’s at a big disadvantage compared to other countries. We do less for families, less in terms of parental leave, less in terms of equal pay, less in terms of childcare assistance than virtually any other of our competitor nations around the world.

0:20:43 Michele Goodwin:
Wow. Well, Representative Porter, I have one last question, and we ask this in each of our episodes, I’d love for us to just stay with you forever, but you have many other important matters to get to, but what’s the silver lining, going forward? We’ve come through pandemic, you know, insurrection at the Capitol, such hard times for parents, for single moms, but is there a silver lining, and what might that look like, going forward?

0:21:15 Katie Porter:
There’s a sense that…we used to talk about sort of democracy’s fragile. This was something I would hear elected officials say, you know, you have to do your part, we can’t take things for granted, every voice counts, but they were sort of slogans, and I think a lot of the things that have happened to people in this country, and to this country, collectively, in the last year and a half that you listed are things that really demonstrate that. I mean, for me, being in the Capitol complex on those January 6th attacks… when we say democracy’s fragile, we mean it. Literally, the barriers designed to protect democracy in action on the House floor were not strong enough to allow us to continue that day. So, I think there’s a sense of, you know, what’s at stake when we vote? 

Lives. Lives are at stake. What’s at stake when we call our elected official and tell them about our problem? It’s kids going hungry. It’s people getting sick. This stuff’s real, and so, policy is not something that happens in Washington that affects other people. Policy is something that is going to potentially change the lives of everyone around us, including ourselves, and so, I think it has driven home for people a lot more why it’s important to be engaged in our democracy, as much as we can.

0:22:51 Roxy Szal:

This is Roxy, one of the producers for “On the Issues.” To my mom, Lisa, and grandma, Bernie, I’m so thankful to have strong women like you in my life.

0:23:01 Jacklyn:

This is Jacklyn. To my mom, grandma, and all the strong women mentors and friends in my life, thank you for making me the woman I am today.

0:23:08 Michele Goodwin:
We’ve just heard from Representative Katie Porter and a couple of shout-outs to moms. More to come in this episode, and you can read these special Mother’s Day appreciations and tributes online at MsMagazine.com. So, how are moms faring, those who have to pick up the pieces when there isn’t enough money to go around? When they’re working multiple jobs, how are they making ends meet? I turn to Dr. Aisha Nyandoro for answers. 

Aisha, you are the Chief Executive Officer of Springboard to Opportunities and Director of Magnolia Mother’s Trust. Let’s level-set a little bit. Can you tell us about the origin, vision, and mission behind your work and specifically Magnolia Mother’s Trust?

0:23:59 Dr. Aisha Nyandoro: 

Yeah. No. Thank you, so much, for that question. So, Springboard to Opportunities provides programming services for families that live in federally subsidized affordable housing. We are based in Jackson, Mississippi, and we’ve been doing this work since 2013 of holistically providing wraparound services that our families that we work with tell us they need to be successful in life, school, and work. In 2017, I became concerned that in spite of all of the programs that we were providing, we were not moving the needle on poverty, meaning that we were not seeing a positive transition out of the affordable housing communities that we work in, and since our organization is radically resident-driven, whenever we are trying to understand something or whenever we’re confused, we go to our residents and ask them what is it that we’re missing, what is it that you need? 

And so, in this iteration, we went out, and I was like, you know, something is not connecting, just be honest with us, and every conversation that we’ve heard from families during that time, the common denominator was the lack of financial resources, plain and simple cash. It could’ve been money for anything as it relates to something as inconsequential as pizza on a Friday night or school uniforms for their kids to participate in extracurricular activities or resources for car repairs so that individuals could get to and from church, I mean, to and from work, excuse me.

0:25:21 Michele Goodwin:
And church, too, I’m sure.

0:25:22 Dr. Aisha Nyandoro:

I know, church too. That’s important, so thank you, for that, Michelle, and I’m a pastor’s kid, so yes, church, as well.

0:25:25 Michele Goodwin:
For some folks, right? So, you know that you need to be talking about that, so.

0:25:32 Dr. Aisha Nyandoro:

A Freudian slip, but it clearly was what I need to be talking about today, so we may get there, but yeah, and so we kept hearing that, and so, I was like, okay, we are hearing this, time and time again, is the common denominator, so how do we go about giving our families the cash resources that they need? And this was in 2017. So, this is prior to COVID and all of the crop of guaranteed income pilots and demonstrations that are now, and it was, you know, us really thinking about how do we address this need that we’re hearing from our residents, and that’s where the Magnolia Mother’s Trust came from. 

I worked with women in the community to design this program saying, okay, there’s not a model out there, this is our best understanding and best thinking about this, and if we were to make this happen, what should/could it look like, and our moms told us, they would love it to be 12 months, we landed on a thousand dollars a month, and it’s definitely no strings attached because for so many of the families that we work with, given the reality of being connected with the social safety net, they’re used to things being punitive. They are used to things having restrictions. They are used to being told what it is that they can and cannot do with their resources, and so, we definitely wanted this to be in contrast to all of that.

0:26:48 Michele Goodwin:
So, this is like universal basic income, in a way, right?

0:26:52 Dr. Aisha Nyandoro:
For us, it’s different than universal basic income. We call our work guaranteed income because it’s targeted. So, you know, universal basic income is everybody gets a check.

0:27:01 Michele Goodwin:
Oh, you’re saying mamas get a check.

0:27:03 Dr. Aisha Nyandoro:

I am saying Black mamas get a check. I am saying Black mamas in federally subsidized affordable housing get a check. On average, the families that we work with make less than 12 thousand dollars, so we are very intentional in being targeted, saying that if we support those who have been most systematically victimized by the resources limits that we put in place, as well as our social safety net, all of us can benefit.

0:27:28 Michele Goodwin:
Yeah. You know, on that note, because there are people who just don’t get it and don’t understand, and so, I’d love for you to break that down a little bit more because it’s an important point that you’re making about systemic inequalities that roll into the space, that it’s not just out of the blue that we see Black mothers suffering.

0:27:48 Dr. Aisha Nyandoro:

That’s exactly right. So, for us, it really was looking at the systemic policies as it relates to discriminatory employment practices, knowing that Black women in Mississippi make 61 percent of what white men make. It was the discriminatory practices as it relates to our social safety net, and for years, how we have penalized individuals who need those resources that are actually designated to them by our federal government and saying that we are going to inherently take away your dignity by when you need to assess these. So, we were very intentional by naming a thing and saying, okay, we are going to center our work on Black mothers, and not only are we going to center our work, in centering our work, we were trying to do a couple things. 

We were giving our moms the resources that they need. We wanted to lift up these policies that were ineffective and harmful, and we also wanted to begin to change the narrative about how we go about addressing poverty and how we view the role of Black mothers in this country and how we have, in essence, allowed a lot of them to be forgotten and harmed, and so, we said we’re going to set out to change all of those pieces, and we are going to leverage the fact that we are here in Mississippi, where the cost of living is low. We’re going to leverage that fact to make magic happen, and that’s what we’ve been doing since 2018.

0:29:07 Michele Goodwin:
Also joining me for our interview with Dr. Nyandoro was Tamara Weir, one of the moms in the Springboard to Opportunity second cohort of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust. What a great name. Tamara Weir is a caregiver and a mother of three girls. 

Well, Tamara, I want to turn to you because you were in Springboard to Opportunity’s second cohort of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust. How did the program impact your life?

0:29:37 Tamara: 

It impacted me a whole lot, and for the better, I must say. The women, such as Ms. Aisha, not just her. It was 2 or 3 other women who… they really encouraged us. It wasn’t just about the money. It was the motivational speakers, the different opportunities that was opened up for me. It made me a lot more social towards other people because, well, I’m not quiet, at all, but towards opening up to other mothers who were in the same situation as me, because sometime when you’re going through something financial, it’s hard to talk to others about it, regardless if they’re going through it with you, but this program has, it was just a big eye-opener on everything. 

We went to a women’s retreat. That was something I never did, ever, before in my life. Probably, if I never met Ms. Aisha, I probably would have never done it, and it was just, it was just a great uplifter of women empowerment. I truly joined the program because…let me give you a little of my backstory, okay? When COVID first hit, it was hard. It was really hard on me, very hard on me, because my job that I was actually working at, this is before they actually shut down. I had worked there years. I actually do childcare myself, now, but I’ve been in childcare business for 18 years, okay? My job, due to COVID, my job did shut down due to COVID, but before they shut down, I had to quit because I have daughters who have asthma, and I have to take that serious for my children. I had to make a decision for my family that I wasn’t ready for, but I prayed about. I prayed about it. I left in January. I actually prayed about it. 

I’ll never forget, February 17, and I know the Lord move fast, but I ain’t know he moved that fast. Here they come, in March, calling me and telling me that I’ve been accepted in the program and that, it was emotional because, and I didn’t know how I was going to make it, how I was going to survive. So, as I got to talk to Ms. Aisha more and Ms. Sarah more, they kind of was explaining to us it’s strictly for you, and your family, and your needs, and what you need, and actually, I needed it…because my car was on its last leg. It needed to be repaired. I had a lot of things going on at once, and I was patching the situation, just patching here, patching there, but it really gave me some financial leeway because I was able to do things such as have my daughters their own parties… We have not left anything since that day, literally, and my last time receiving a check was February of this year.

0:32:54 Michele Goodwin:
Aisha, in building on Tamara’s experiences and that of other moms, what’s been the result and success of the first two cohorts? What have you learned about the value of supporting mothers, Black mothers, in this way?

0:33:09 Dr. Aisha Nyandoro:
You know, so, it’s a couple of things that, you know, I’ve learned and that this project has made very clear is that cash is important. I mean, of course, that’s a given, but not only is cash important. I think when we talk about cash, I think what Tamara just said was really significant and important. She said it just wasn’t about the money. I think we put a lot of emphasis on guaranteed income and the consumer sovereignty of what cash allows you to buy, which is important, but what I have learned, which is much more important, especially when talking about the population that we work with, is how they are able to show up and see themselves for the first time is much more important than a thousand dollars a month, and I think it’s much more important than that because we are talking about a population of women who not have been allowed to understand that they are entitled to joy and that they can have joy.

And we never talk about Black women joy and the importance of how that allows you to not only show up in this moment, but it allows you to show up for your future, as well, and allows you to have the bandwidth to take a step back and to really plan for the future and to begin to actualize your dreams and do the future forecasting. So, that has been what we’ve learned, and that has been so much more important for me than all of our data and statistics about what individuals have bought, what individuals have paid off, and those things, which we definitely have. You know I run an organization, so we understand the power of data, and we definitely have that, but I think that as we continue to talk about guaranteed income, just having the narrow frame of it being, you know, cash, as if that is a balm that solves all ailments, I think it’s too narrow.

0:34:55 Michele Goodwin:
Well, I really appreciate your saying that and would love to hear even more for our listeners what the types of life conditions and circumstances are of the women that you work with, and here, you know, more just to level-set and not as a way of a kind of pathologizing, which sadly happens so often in our society, where women are blamed, working-class women, impoverished women are blamed for their circumstances, and fingers are pointed at them, but rather with our kind of spirit at Ms. Magazine, which is just to say this is how women are living, this is what they’re experiencing, this is what moms and caretakers are experiencing.

And in fact, on that note, coming from the traditions of so many different cultures, which is that, you know, there are people who are doing mothering who may not be biologically connected to the kids that they’re caring for. They may be aunties. They may be grandmothers. They may not even be aunties and grandmothers but through a very old tradition of just saying you’re mine, and you need care, and we’re taking care of you. So, can you give us, you know, just a sense of the kinds of lives that the people that you’re helping, you know, where they’re coming from? What are they experiencing?

0:36:12 Dr. Aisha Nyandoro:

And I love that you introduce this ideal of care as I know Tamara initially introduced it with talking about her career for the last 18 years and how she’s a caregiver, and with the pandemic and caregiving, we saw exponentially how much the impact of that with more individuals working from home and remote learning with the kids, you know, for the families that we work with, they have been telling us for years that limited access to childcare was preventing them from working outside of the home and progressing in their careers at a rate in which, you know, they wanted to, and we ignored them, and now that white and middle-class women were saying this, because of COVID, we really began to have some conversations about the role of care and how we really need to be fixing care, as well, because care within this country is not working, but specifically, you know, just thinking about the population that we work with, a lot of these women work 2 and 3 jobs, and they work 2 or 3 jobs because they are jobs where they are not provided a living wage. 

Here in Mississippi, our federal minimum wage is 7 dollars and 25 cents an hour. You know Tamara talked about being a care worker. I believe Tamara worked and made about 10 or 11 dollars an hour. There is no place that you can live within this country where you can have safe housing that’s affordable and survive off of 10 dollars an hour or 7 dollars and 25 cents an hour. So, you have had individuals who are working 2, 3 jobs, whether or not it’s care work, whether or not it’s retail, whether or not it’s the service industry, but because of the policies that we’ve allowed to be put in place and maintain for the long haul, individuals have not been able to acquire wages at the same rate in which others have, and we have never recognized…well, let me not say ever, but we have not recognized the failing that all of us have and been complicit in that reality.

And the narrative that we tell ourselves is that, oh, you know, individuals are choosing not to work, or individuals are choosing whatever it is that we feel that they’re choosing, but that’s not the reality. We haven’t set it up where the wages that we are providing are allowing individuals to work and care for their children and care for their extended family members because, as we know, in the Black community, and a lot of times, you are sandwiched between caring for your children as well as caring for your parents or other elders within your community, and we have not allowed them an opportunity to make wages in a way in which all of that makes sense.

0:38:58 Michele Goodwin:

But that’s not all, as Representative Katie Porter made clear. If you’re a single mom, you’ve got it tough, even if you’re in Congress. That’s only exacerbated if you’re living on minimum wage and working multiple jobs to put food on the table. So, I turned back to Aisha and Tamara, mindful of being respectful, but also wanting to give voice to the realities that many mothers, many women in the Magnolia Trust, experience.

0:39:28 Dr. Aisha Nyandoro:

You know for a lot of our families, you know, what we hear time and time again is that the reality is that they’re exhausted. So, if you are working 2 or 3 jobs and taking care of your kids, you’re starting your day at 6 AM, if not earlier, and your day goes continually until 10 o’clock PM, if not later, and you are constantly moving from one thing to the next, trying to get kids out the door, trying to get yourself to work, shifting through in time from one job to the next, trying to get home, do the food, do the homework, all of those pieces, you know? So, it’s a continuous cycle, but more so than it being a continuous cycle of being exhausted, it’s also a continuous cycle of feeling as if you’re invisible because you know that this is your narrative, where you are working as hard as you are, but the belief goes in this country is that you are poor because you choose to be poor, and you are lazy, and you’re not doing enough. 

So, match that up against the reality that you have where you are doing all that you can, and you know that those two don’t gel, and so, it creates this cycle where, you know, we have heard our moms say where they felt as if they were failing, or they felt as if they weren’t good parents, when none of that is the case. The women that we work with are the strongest, bravest, most kick-butt women that I know. They are absolutely amazing. I have no idea how they do all of the things that they do and still show up with laughter, but they do, and we don’t allow them an opportunity to see themselves and all that they’re capable of.

And I also think that that is by design of how we have set poverty up in this country to make it so where you are not seeing yourself and all that you are capable of, and not only all that you’re capable of, all that you’re already doing, because I think poverty’s also designed to take away your power and your voice, and that’s how we keep individuals impoverished, not just, you know, the financial aspect of it, yes, but then also, you know, with the individual’s belief that it’s a individual failing that they are not doing something correct, rather than actually owning that it’s a societal failing, that we, as society, are not doing something correct. I think that’s what it all means, at the end of the day, for all of us.

0:41:51 Michele Goodwin:
And Tamara, I’d like to turn to you and basically pose the same question, which is what has it meant for you, the investment for you and your family?

0:42:02 Tamara:
It has meant, for me, a financial boost and a lack of stress and worrying about how I’m going to do this or how I’m going to do that, and when you’re a mother, that is your number-one issue, you know, and it is a…when you’re in this program, the reason why I like the program is because of the empowerment, because staying in low-income, you do feel labeled. You do feel a part of someone labeling you and being a part of a statistic, you know, and different things like that. You go through those issues, too. I want a house for my girls, but I know it’s all in God’s timing, and it will come, you know? I’m claiming it, but I do thank them for the opportunity. It was one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had, I’m going to say that in my life, in my 36 years.

0:43:16 Michele Goodwin:
Tamara then shared that before she had support from Magnolia Mother’s Trust, it was hard to make ends meet. She worked multiple jobs, and to accommodate her work schedule, she had to put her daughter on a bus at 5 AM every morning to make it to work by 6 AM, and when her kids got home, they were exhausted, and so was she.

0:43:39 Tamara:

I did kind of feel like I failed them, in a way, just trying to make a living for them, you know, working long hours like that. I even noticed that my kids’ grades started to slip because of me working those long hours, and if I’m working from 6 to 6, when I get home, immediately, I got to cook, you know, so they can have dinner, and then it’s like they going to sleep. I didn’t have…they just were…it was hard on me with my schedule like that.

0:44:20 Kimberly LaSalle: 

Kimberly LaSalle sending love and light to Shakti Gwen for teaching me how to nurture myself and be my own mother. Thank you.

0:44:29 Opal Palmer Adisa:
Thanks for being a caregiver. A mother is not just a woman who gives birth to a child. As challenging as giving birth is, that is really the easier aspect of mothering. Those of you who have pledged commitment to mothering and have dedicated time, effort, and energy know what an amazing task is afoot. A mother puts the needs of her children first. 

This is one way to spell mother, M, magnanimous and management. Mothers have to be altruistic and have the ability to administer and supervise, O, organize and open-minded. An effective mother has a system that works and is tolerant of difference. T, tenacity and tactful. A mother will go to any lengths to protect her child and will be sensitive to his needs. H, humility and honor, a good mother puts the need of her child above hers and appreciates each child. E, endearing and empathy. A mother is able to engage and sympathize with each child and allow each to know he or she is special, safe, and protected. Respectful and resourceful, a good mother is dutiful to each child and practice creativity to cope. 

Regardless of your sex, if you’re mothering, I applaud, and thank you for nurturing the next generation who, if loved and cared for with tenderness, will continue to nurture and ensure our positive continuity. Asheo, Happy Mother’s Day, from Professor Opal Palmer Adisa and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies.

0:46:11 Michele Goodwin:
Later in our show, we’ll turn back to Aisha and Tamara. Now, let’s turn to Nicole Lynn Lewis, author of the newly released book, Pregnant Girl, which chronicles her time as a single pregnant teen, who goes on to attend William & Mary with a baby in tow. 

Nicole, it’s really such a pleasure to have you with us, and you are telling a very important story, an important story about your life, and you know, you were once a teen mom, and you overcame extreme odds, graduating with honors from the college of William & Mary, and as you say, while working like hell to create a safe, secure life, you know, for yourself and for your daughter.

And now you’re the Founder and CEO of the nonprofit Generation Hope, which helps teen parents prepare for and navigate the challenges of college while raising children. That is amazing, and what I’d love for you to do is tell our listeners a bit more about your journey and what came with that journey for you, including, perhaps, some of the messy parts, and because you are, you know, you’re part of a success story, too, in more than just that kind of glossy way of success story but really putting the heart and the sweat into making a life for yourself and for your daughter and doing so with pride and dignity.

0:47:37 Nicole Lynn Lewis: 

Yeah. Thank you, so much, and you know there are a lot of messy parts, so that’s pretty easy to share. You know I was a senior in high school when I discovered my pregnancy, and I was college-bound. I was an honor roll student. I had a stack of college acceptance letters on one side of my desk and a positive pregnancy test on the other, and it was really hard for me to see how those two things could ever coexist and kind of come together, and I didn’t have any role models in my neighborhood, my community, my school, in terms of young women who had gotten pregnant and had gone on to college. 

That just didn’t happen. Most of the young women that I knew in that situation disappeared and often dropped out of school. They often went and worked in retail or service industries, and you know, I didn’t know if college was actually possible for me, and I thought, at the same time, that education was probably the best way for me to provide for my daughter and that it was going to be really important that I at least try to continue on towards college, and that road was really difficult. You know the next year of my life, nothing about my life said college. I ended up leaving home. I was sleeping in cars in the high-school parking lot, living place to place. I was in a really tumultuous relationship with my daughter’s father. 

When I found out that I had been accepted into William & Mary, I was eight months pregnant and hungry and living day to day in a Motel 6, and it just did not seem like college was a reality, even though I held that acceptance letter in my hand, and when I started school, my daughter was a little under 3 months old. So, I was a new mom and a new college student all at the same time. I had this hand-me-down backpack. I had a breast pump in it. I had, you know, just no money for even the meal that I was going to have that day. I didn’t know where tuition or book money was coming from. I often tell people I stepped foot on campus, looked down at my feet, and thought I don’t belong here, and I think that’s…

0:49:49 Michele Goodwin:
So, were you from Virginia, because the college of William & Mary is in Virginia? Where were you when you got this letter?

0:49:57 Nicole Lynn Lewis:
I was in Virginia. I had gone to middle and high school in Tidewater, the Tidewater area, so Virginia Beach, Virginia, and my sister had actually gone to William & Mary, my older sister, so I was familiar with William & Mary. I had applied to both Hampton University and William & Mary and decided to go to William & Mary, and yeah, it was intimidating, to say the least.

0:50:22 Michele Goodwin:
I can imagine that because it’s intimidating for individuals of means, who’ve had a clean pathway on to college, and what years are we talking about? When was it that you…you were 17, but what year was it that you discovered that you were pregnant?

0:50:40 Nicole Lynn Lewis:
1998. I graduated from high school in 1998, so, a little while ago.

0:50:45 Michele Goodwin:
It was a little while ago, but still, this is a kind of modern time of finding that out and still, even within these modern times, the stigma and also the shame. So, what was that like, finishing high school, being in high school, knowing that you were pregnant and wondering about what comes next, from the high school, you know, from your perspective as a student in high school?

0:51:10 Nicole Lynn Lewis:
I remember that, you know, when I, before my pregnancy, I had all of these champions, like all of these cheerleaders in terms of faculty or administrators and teachers who saw me as this rock star student and were willing to provide all the recommendation letters and help me fill out, you know, a scholarship application, for example, and then, it was almost instantaneous that as soon as I discovered my pregnancy and people started to hear about my pregnancy, some of my biggest cheerleaders were my biggest critics, and I remember one teacher in particular who, you know, just made it incredibly difficult for me to be able to succeed in her class. It was my favorite class. It was journalism, and I went from an A, and writing for the paper, you know, the school’s paper, to a D and really because she wouldn’t look me in the eye. You know she definitely had opinions about the fact that I was now expecting and wanted to make life more difficult for me. So, it was extremely hard, and we see that, you know, in the students that we work with, some horror stories about how they’re treated in school environments.

0:52:23 Michele Goodwin:
And this is the story that you tell in your wonderful, wonderful book, Pregnant Girl, which is soon to be released, and I commend our listening audience to get your hands on this book. I’ve been fortunate to receive a pre-copy, but this is the story that you talk about, right?

0:52:46 Nicole Lynn Lewis:

Yeah. Yeah. I talk about in the book just exactly that, that school became a really strange place for me, and it was interesting because I had always been, you know, a really strong student, honor roll student, involved in every club you can think of, and then, suddenly, it was just not an environment where I felt supported or welcomed at all.

0:53:08 Michele Goodwin:

And you know, one of the points that you emphasize in the book and that you have, in fact, across other writings that you’ve done and appearances, is that it’s that kind of stigmatization, that kind of shaming that makes it difficult for young women who become pregnant while in high school to be able to make it out of high school with a diploma and even to make it into college. So, can you talk a little bit about that, what kind of breaks down for young women when they become pregnant while in high school?

0:53:45 Nicole Lynn Lewis:
Ironically, we take the support that we could provide to a young woman in that situation away from them at the most critical time, the time that they need that support, and we tell them you’ve got to figure it out on your own, and then, we look at their inability to graduate from high school, their inability to go to college, as evidence for why we’re justified in kind of ripping that rug right out from underneath them, and so, you know, one of the things I talk about in the book is that what good do we create when we stigmatize and shame and marginalize young mothers? We have a lot of work to do in really saying, hey, this is an opportunity for us to rally around this student and also to rally around this child that’s soon to be coming into the world. That’s where we have a real opportunity, to really help these families thrive and overcome the many challenges that are going to be in their way.

0:54:45 Michele Goodwin:
And you know, you’ve written about how so much of this is rooted in racism and in sexism, this way in which basically single moms, teen pregnant moms, are shut out of what is good and what can be transformative in society, and you write in a recent Washington Business Journal article, you wrote, most teen mothers won’t earn a degree before the age of 30, and you say, in fact, the college graduation rate for these students is less than 2 percent. Black, Native American, and Hispanic single mothers are less likely, as you write, to hold undergraduate degrees than white and Asian single mothers, with only 22 percent of Black single mothers holding an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. 

You know how do we begin to understand that, and how do we begin to do something transformative that changes that narrative, because what you’re pointing out there is that it’s not just that single moms will be stereotyped and shamed, especially if they were, you know, pregnant as teenagers, but it actually turns out that single moms who happen to be Asian or who happen to be white have a different road ahead. Now, what accounts for the difference?

0:56:05 Nicole Lynn Lewis:
Yeah. I think part of this goes back to what we’ve been taught about teen pregnancy, which is really inaccurate, which is that, you know, we often think that the pregnancy is what caused the issues or things to go off the rails in a young person’s life, and what we know is that there are many underlying issues and underlying things that were happening in a young person’s life far before, long before the pregnancy, and for young people who are, you know, from racialized communities, for young people of color, especially young women who find themselves in these situations, the systemic racism that is at play in our society is really, you know, that comes way before the pregnancy.

It puts them in a position where it becomes really difficult for them to overcome the challenges in a different way than their white or Asian counterparts. So, we know already that Black youth have an uphill battle to college, you know, starting from what we know about mortality rates for Black mothers and Black and brown mothers and trauma experienced in childhood for Black and brown children. Not to mention once they get into school, the school-to-prison pipeline. I mean there’s so many things that really can cause real hurdles to getting out of high school and getting into college. 

What we’re seeing in teen pregnancy is that now you’re layering on top of that becoming a parent early and the challenges that come with that, and so, I think one of the opportunities that we have and something that I want to convey in the book is that, you know, we can change the way that we’ve been thinking about teen pregnancy and the way that we’ve been talking about it and really name the role of race in the lives of young people even before they become a teen parent, and we have to start to address those issues and really try to address those disparities, and that has to be a part of this teen pregnancy conversation.

0:58:03 Michele Goodwin:
Well, I’m so happy that you raised that, the kind of systemic and the structural types of issues that preexist the pregnancy, itself, because it’s not just the pregnancy, right? I mean it’s a number of other things and support networks that may not exist because those infrastructures and institutions just simply weren’t there before, and they’re made even more vulnerable and fragile if one happens to be Latinx, you know, Indigenous, or a young Black girl, and in your book, you also write about there being some examples of good bouts of fortune along the way, such that if one is actually able to somehow make it through high school, even though people may turn on you, and the experiences are that teachers who adored you before and administrators who adored you before may blame you and shame you and stigmatize you for the pregnancy.

But if you are somehow able to fill out those college applications and somehow able to get admitted based on all that’s been good before, then once you get there, there are certain dynamic things that you can do, and so, you write about this. For example, you write about how your Pell Grants and other loans stretched across all 12 months of the year for your tuition, food, and other expenses. Can you break that down, just a little bit, for people who don’t necessarily have to think about that? I mean I think that we have some of our listeners who do and are curious about that because they come from spaces that happen to be where they’ve experienced vulnerabilities, and some of our other listeners may not. So, talk about that Pell Grant stretching the money once you’re in college to make it work for you and your daughter.

0:59:49 Nicole Lynn Lewis:
Yeah. So, you know, one thing that is different about being a parent in college today versus 20 years ago, when I was in college, is that the cost of higher education has skyrocketed over the past 20 years, and so, I even say, I pose the question, which is a very real question, is whether or not I would have been able to stretch a Pell Grant over 12 months, for example, in today’s, you know, the cost structure of higher education today, and the answer is no. I would not have been able to do that. 20 years ago, I barely subsisted off of those Pell Grants and the different financial aid packages that I was able to get over those four years. 

There were many meals that I had to skip. I remember distinctly going to a supermarket, getting about 20 dollars’ worth of groceries, you know, having my daughter, pushing her in the cart, getting to the cash register, and having my card declined, and I remember pushing her out into the parking lot and looking at her and not knowing how we were going to eat that night, and that, that was something that happened many a times over those four years. Even the housing that I was able to secure on campus, most college campuses do not have family housing, and not enough for those that do have it.

1:01:07 Michele Goodwin:
That’s right.

1:01:10 Nicole Lynn Lewis:

You know there are long waiting lists, and I was able to get into family housing at William & Mary that wasn’t even intended for me as an undergraduate student. It was really intended for graduate students and adjunct professors to live there with their families. I found a loophole. I was able to advocate for myself and get in there, but the vast majority of parenting college students in this country, there’s 4 million parenting college students in this country, that’s not a reality. They’re not able to find that loophole. That family housing unit doesn’t exist, and so, there were many a-times that, you know, I got off of a waiting list for childcare, or I was able to find a loophole, that the stars aligned for me in a way that they just don’t align for most of, many, and the vast majority of the students that are in this situation.

1:01:57 Michele Goodwin:
Well, you were advocating for yourself on many different fronts. In fact, you do write about how, today, the 6-thousand-dollar Pell Grant does not even cover half of tuition at a public college, and you write about, you know, getting placed in a safe and clean apartment on campus that was designed for families, but it didn’t happen automatically. You really had to convince the school that you and your daughter even qualified for being a family, you know, which is ironic in every kind of way.

1:02:25 Nicole Lynn Lewis:

1:02:29 Michele Goodwin:
Which says a lot about the presumptions that were built into this about what makes a family, you know, the male grad student and his wife.

1:02:37 Nicole Lynn Lewis:

1:02:36 Michele Goodwin:
And that they have, then, a child, but not a woman having a child as constituting a family.

1:02:44 Nicole Lynn Lewis:
Exactly. Yes. Exactly. I think who deserves, you know, to have that label, and who doesn’t, and I think that that was something, and I think, at William & Mary, as with many schools, especially kind of, you know, “prestigious” schools, there’s a sense that a student like me would not exist on their campus, and I’ve talked to other institutions that have made that assumption, and the reality is that students like me are on your campuses. You just don’t know about them, and they’re at risk of falling through the cracks, which is what I was up against each and every day.

1:03:35 Carmen:

My name is Carmen, and I want to wish to my mom, Norma Jean, a very happy Mother’s Day. I’m so proud of my mom and the person that she is. My mom raised me as a single mom. She was the first to graduate college, and she made sure that I was the second. One of the lessons that my mom taught me was to be civically engaged, to care about what’s going on in our community. I remember going to my first protest when I was very young. We were protesting a young man by the name of Ernest Lacy who had been murdered in the community by the police. 

Of course, we went and we protested on his behalf to make sure that our voices were heard and to make sure that this injustice should not happen. That memory serves me well, and unfortunately, many years later, we are still having that same fight, but many years later, my mother still is on the ground, making sure that people have the right to vote, making sure that people have the resources and education they need to understand what it means to be civically engaged. I owe my political education to my mom. Mom, thank you. Happy Mother’s Day.

1:04:42 Mariah:

Hi. This is Mariah, and I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful mamas in my life, including my mama, Titi Jo, Titi Mau, Mamam, Alegra, Christina, and Joana. I love you all so much.

1:04:53 Michele Goodwin:
So, what does it mean to have women’s backs? Is it just a slogan? Who’s really doing the work? Clearly, with programs like Magnolia Mother’s Trust and Generation Hope, they are part of grassroots and civil society efforts to lead the way. They’re making a difference, but many are saying there’s more that government can do, such as, if banks and businesses can be bailed out when they fall on hard times, how about parents? That’s part of what we’re hearing from Representative Katie Porter, whom we heard earlier in this particular episode. So, what’s the silver lining, a question we ask every episode? Wrapping up this episode, here’s Nicole Lewis, followed by Dr. Aisha Nyandoro.

1:05:41 Nicole Lynn Lewis:
I think the silver lining is, you know, I’m thankful for everything that I experienced, even the most difficult times, because it led me to this work. It led me to, you know, really making sure that we’re removing barriers for others, for paving the way, and there’s not a day that goes by that I would change anything about it. I think this is my calling, my passion, and I think we’re in a moment, as a country, where this work is vital, and we have the opportunity to help to change people’s kind of mindsets about what is possible for young families, and so, I’m just thankful to be here in a moment where I can maybe help to do that.

1:06:27 Dr. Aisha Nyandoro:
Oh, so many silver linings, Michele. I mean, you know, we started this work in 2018 with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, and the fact that we’re here, in this place, in this country, where we are having all of these conversations about cash and all of these conversations about centering families and their needs and how we think about creating an economy and creating a social contract that works for all of us, just not a few of us. So, that’s a silver lining, that we have so many allies now working alongside with us. From the very beginning, the Magnolia Mother’s Trust was all about challenging the structures that hold Black women in this country, particularly, you know, poor Black women in the Deep South, with the stereotypes around work ethic, the paternalistic nature of our social safety net, who is deserving of dignity and help, we have always been working to challenge those conversations and those ideas.

And the fact that the Magnolia Mother’s Trust is helping to build a movement empowering Black women to unapologetically position them as worthy, capable, and valuable, and the fact that we have so many other individuals looking to us in this movement work that we started here in the South, with other women, with Black women, that is the silver lining. I am in Mississippi. I tell folks all the time, I’m in Mississippi, we just got rid of our Confederate flag last summer. If we can do this work here, unapologetically do this work here, imagine what can be done worldwide or nationwide if we just decided to trust and get out of our own way and not lean into what it is that we tell ourselves is necessary or possible or what has to be, and we just look to the individuals for the wisdom. 

The Magnolia Mother’s Trust, I am the leader of the work, but it is not my work. The women that I work with told us what it was that they needed. They said they needed cash without restrictions to support their families, and I went about making that happen with other partners, and so, if we just got back to listening to community and grounding what it is that we build in the wisdom of community, man, the sky is the limit. So, it is so much silver lining. It’s like raining silver, Michele.

1:08:46 Michele Goodwin:
That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. Well, it’s been my pleasure to have you and Tamara join us for our show.

1:08:55 Dr. Aisha Nyandoro:
Thank you, so much, for having me. I appreciate it, and thank you, Tamara, for saying yes to this opportunity. I appreciate you, sweetheart.

1:09:19 Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman:

I would like to send out a special salute to the women who are mothers, and who mother their children that are not their biological children. These are the madears of the world, the play moms, the moms who take care of other people’s children, maybe the children that they themselves did not birth. These are the moms who have stood in the gap maybe for the absent mom, or the mom for whatever reason who couldn’t be there. 

And in that vein, I’d like to say a special shoutout to my own other mother, Bertie May Smith, who was the mother I needed to have, the soft place to land, and who certainly helped inspire my growth and development. 

1:10:09 Lillian LaSalle:

This is Lillian LaSalle, and I would like to send my 10-second Mother’s Day memo to my amazing mom, Kimberly LaSalle. I love you. Peace.

1:10:18: Antwann Simpkins

Happy Mother’s Day to women all across the world, my name is Antwann Simpkins, I’m a PhD candidate at UCLA, I wish to give a special mother’s day shoutout to my mom, Beverly Grant, and to my mentor, professor Michele Goodwin and advisors Dr. Sarah Haley and Vilma Ortiz, thank you so much for all that you do in uplifting me and various other students as well, keeping us informed and enlightened. And thank you to all women for keeping us aware of the issue and keeping communities uplifted. Thank you so much, have the greatest of Mother’s days in 2021.

1:09:27 Michele Goodwin:
Guests and listeners, that’s it for today’s episode of “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin.” I want to thank my guests for joining us, for being a part of this insightful and critical conversation, and to our listeners, I thank you for tuning in for the full story. We hope you join us again for our next episode, where we will be reporting, rebelling, and telling it like it is with the launch of our new podcast series, “15 Minutes of Feminism: Who Killed Breonna Taylor?” It will be a new launch that you will not want to miss, and for more information about what we discussed today, head to msmagazine.com. 

Now, if you believe, as we do, that women’s voices matter, that equality for all persons cannot be delayed, and that rebuilding America, being unbought and unbossed, and reclaiming our time are important, then be sure to rate, review, and subscribe to “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher. We are ad-free and reader-supported. Help us reach new listeners and bring the hard-hitting content you’ve come to expect by rating, reviewing, and subscribing. Let us know what you think about our show, and please, support independent feminist media. Look for us at msmagazine.com for new content and special episode updates, and if you want to reach us to recommend guests for our show or topics that you want to hear about, write to us at ontheissues@msmagazine.com, and we do read our mail.

This has been your host, Michele Goodwin, reporting, rebelling, and telling it like it is. “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” is a Ms. Magazine joint production. Kathy Spillar and Michele Goodwin are our executive producers. Our producers for this episode are Roxy Szal and Mariah Lindsay. We thank Oliver Haug for research and digital assistance. The creative vision behind our work includes art and design by Brandi Phipps, editing by Will Alvarez and Marsh Allen, and music by Chris J. Lee. Stephanie Wilner provides executive assistance.