A win for Black moms in Mississippi

02. 27. 2020

A guaranteed income program that started with 20 participants in Jackson, Mississippi is getting a major boost.

A guaranteed income program that started with 20 participants in Jackson, Mississippi is getting a major boost just as the powerful results of the first round have been released.

The Magnolia Mother’s Trust began in late 2018, and provided $1,000 a month for one year to Black mothers living in extreme poverty. Results of the first round of the program showed extremely promising effects on families, including more than double the amount of households preparing the majority of their food at home and recipients collectively paying off more than $10,000 in predatory debt. You can see more in a summary of the first year’s results here.

“I’ve seen a tremendous change in my self-esteem,” said Erania, one of the original Magnolia Mother’s Trust recipients. “I’ve seen a tremendous change in my family members. They’re more proud of me because I’m able to be a little bit more dependent on myself instead of being dependent on them all the time.” Through the program, Smith was able to make ends meet without intense stress each month and to make her own choices for herself and her kids. This freedom to pay for what was needed, instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all program to dictate what they thought she needed improved Erania’s outlook dramatically. Now, she is returning to school to earn a degree in administrative assistance.

As the result of a major fundraising push led by Springboard to Opportunities CEO Aisha Nyandoro — including a grant from the Economic Security Project — the Magnolia Mother’s Trust will expand to more than triple the original number of recipients in 2020. 75 low-income Black mothers living in public housing will begin receiving $1,000 a month, no strings attached. As Nyandoro wrote in a recent Ms. op-ed, “This work is about more than guaranteed income. It is about the shaping and nurturing of radical possibilities. Our goal is to place Black women at the center- not at the center of pain, but of pathways to plenty-so that our communities, our families, we, can do more than survive, can thrive, can be secure in a place of becoming.”

This kind of direct solution is especially necessary and impactful in communities like Jackson, where the city’s concentrated poverty rates have increased in the past decade. The Magnolia Mother’s Trust focuses on Black women as their poverty rate is more than twice that of white women. Mississippi has the highest rate of child poverty in the country, with 54 percent of Black children living in poverty compared to 19 percent of white children. Black women in the state make only 56 cents to every dollar a white man makes.

Jackson’s population is 80% Black, and its location in the Deep South carries with it the history of slavery, discrimination and segregation that is a central thread of our nation’s economic history. Mississippi was on the front lines of a century-long war to take land from Black Americans — it is estimated that 12 million acres were lost by Black landowners in the Delta states. Due to intimidation, predatory debt traps and racist practices of financial institutions, a primary source of wealth was taken out from under the Black community.

From Martin Luther King, Jr. to the National Welfare Rights Organization, guaranteed income has a long history in the racial justice space as an effective way to begin to repair the economic and societal harm Black Americans have suffered due to discriminatory policies that have fueled our country’s massive racial wealth gap.

“This program is a direct result of women living in poverty telling us what they needed to get ahead — from moving to a safer neighborhood, finishing college or simply being able to consistently put food on the table — was cash,” said Springboard to Opportunities CEO Aisha Nyandoro. “My hope is that the Magnolia Mother’s Trust serves as an example to policymakers that the most effective way to craft a solution to a problem is to listen to those experiencing it.”