Financial security

Front row: For Nikki, guaranteed income means financial security, community and hope for the future

Front and Center is a groundbreaking series of opinion pieces published by Mrs. and created in partnership with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, which aims to put front and center the voices of black women who are most affected by the often abstract policies currently being debated at the national level. The series highlights the success of Springboard to Opportunities’ Magnolia Mother’s Trustwhich this year will pay $1,000 a month for 12 months to 100 black female-headed families living in federally subsidized housing.

What opportunities might low-income families have if financial survival were not always a priority? What dreams might these mothers and families pursue? What activism and community leadership might arise? The series will answer these and other questions, bringing one mother’s story to the fore every two weeks. The first-person accounts of this series are available for reprint. Find additional guidelines at the end of this story.


I am 42 years old and I have two children: my son Darren is 20 years old and my daughter Dakota is 11 years old. They are my world. We live in a subsidized housing complex called Lincoln Gardens in Jackson. I grew up here in North Jackson.

I feel like there’s not much to say about my life. I guess one important thing to mention is that I have sickle cell anemia. It is a blood disease that is hereditary. For most people, their blood cells are O-shaped. With sickle cell disease, you have crescent-shaped cells. It’s something that mainly affects black people, and other races too, but white people don’t really understand. So what happens is you will have a seizure where your blood will stop, like a blocked faucet. And it will give you a pain attack.

I have three different types of painkillers that I take daily. I am very careful with medication, as many people with sickle cell disease eventually become addicted to painkillers. And I can’t let that happen, I have two kids to take care of. But the pain – oh my God, it’s so intense. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Some nights the pain is so bad that I cry myself to sleep.

Front row: For Nikki, guaranteed income means financial security, community and hope for the future
(Art by Brandi Phipps)

It left me disabled so I can’t work. I go in and out of the hospital, especially during the winter. There’s something about the cold and also about the rain that makes it worse for me, and it’s one of those things where the older you get, the worse it gets. So, with me being 42, it hits me really hard.

I’m so glad my kids don’t have it, since it’s passed down, it’s something you’re born with. One day when I was about two years old my mom noticed that I couldn’t get up and walk, so my parents took me to the ER and from there they found out I had it. Turns out my mum and dad both have the genetic trait, which is why I have the disease. They didn’t know they had it before me. My dad especially, he doesn’t go to the doctor a lot, you know, men are like that sometimes. Were very close. He sometimes jokes, “I don’t have sickle cell disease, you can’t be mine. Which is very funny because we look so alike – when you look at him, you look at me. And when you look at me, you look at him.

So it’s hard that I can’t work now. I had been working since graduating from high school. I went straight from school to working for an elementary school. And then after I had my son, I started working for a daycare. Then I worked at Courthouse Gym, daycare there. At that time, I was working two jobs. I worked at the courthouse during the day, and then at St. Matthews Daycare at night. And at some point while I was doing those two jobs, I got injured. I was on the floor with the kids all the time, and I don’t know if it got on me or pulled something, but I ended up having these really bad leg issues. It started in my right leg. Sickle cell disease certainly made it worse and I ended up having to have both hips replaced. I was barely 30 years old.

That was in 2012, so between leg issues and worsening sickle cell disease, I haven’t been able to work since.

I really, really miss working. It’s hard. I miss my babies, the ones I cared for before. You fall in love with these children who spend so much time with them. I had a daughter who arrived at maybe eight weeks, and I had her until she was four or five. It was my baby; she used to come home with me, stay with me.


“After I had my son, I started working for a daycare… [but] between leg problems and worsening sickle cell disease, I haven’t been able to work since. I really, really miss working.


So it’s been hard being away from my babies at work and also being the mother of my own children while I’m sick. Even when I’m in the hospital, they’re still there. When there was only my son, he came and snuggled up in an armchair right next to the bed. He wasn’t going anywhere. And then when I had my daughter, Dakota, it was the same – they were both right next to me in the hospital. And then I don’t know what happened, I guess other kids had to take action, but the hospital had a rule that kids had to be 13 or older to stay. And that meant the kids couldn’t be with me, which broke our hearts.

But we are still all together at home – my daughter is doing a virtual school and my son is working in a restaurant. And right now, in the summer and then in the fall, it’s not so bad to be in the hospital – I may have to go there once and stay there for two, three weeks. But in winter, I will be there at least once a month. But I’m lucky, everyone helps with the children – my parents, their father.

Things have been tough during the pandemic – I’m so scared of getting sick that I don’t go anywhere except for a doctor’s appointment, to get my meds, or to get groceries. If I don’t have to go, I’m not going. I try not to leave the house. And I’m so sick of home, I’m so sick of my home. I’m going to go crazy being around the house so much. I will be so happy when this is all over. Goodness.

Being in the Magnolia Mother’s Trust program has done me good. There’s the financial part, but what I like the most is that we have this group chat with the other women, and every morning someone just says, “Hi, hello!” “Hello” and I love that. I didn’t have this before. I mean, I have my friends, but I really like getting to know all the mothers. One is about to have a baby, and I’m so excited about it. I’m so ready to see this baby!


“Being in the Magnolia Mother’s Trust program has been good for me… What I like the most is that we have this group chat with the other women, and every morning someone says simply: ‘Hi, hello!’ “Hello” and I love that. I didn’t have that before.


My kids were just my babies yesterday, and now I’m looking at old pictures of them and thinking, “Where did the time go?” My daughter went to visit my sister last fall and she stayed there from August until my birthday in October. And during that time, she had grown so much! When I saw her I just cried and cried, I love her so much. And my son, he’s a mama’s boy, he says he’s going to build a big house and that we’ll all live there together one day. And I tell him, it’s fine, we’ll see each other, but we can have our separate houses.

Before, I didn’t know what Magnolia Mother’s Trust was. I have a new family with Mother’s Trust. They are a new part of my community. When I think about what excites me in the future, I just want to see my kids grow up, just watch them grow up, when they were just my babies yesterday.


Front and middle pieces are free to repost, per 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 opinion pieces published by Mrs. magazine and created in partnership with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust— highlighting the success of Springboard to opportunity‘ Magnolia Mother’s Trust program, which this year will pay $1,000 a month for 12 months to 100 black female-headed families living in federally subsidized housing. The series aims to bring front and center the voices of Black women who are most affected by the often abstract policies currently being debated at the national level.(You may use editorial discretion to modify or shorten the text slightly.)
  • You may also repost the photographs included in this story.
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Questions about the series? Learn more here and direct specific questions to Katie Fleischer at kfleischer@msmagazine.com.


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