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CIVIC ENGAGEMENT EMPOWERING NEWS

Q&A With Robin Jackson

Out of thousands of applicants, MS BWR’s Director of Policy Advocacy and Movement Building, Robin Jackson, and her son RJ were selected as Strolling Thunder Representatives for Mississippi, and we couldn’t be prouder! Their journey to Washington, D.C. will culminate in a discussion with Congress about the importance of supportive childcare policies for families in Mississippi.

Strolling Thunder is a project of Zero to Three, an organization focused on leading policy solutions that give babies a strong start to life. Robin and RJ will join 50 other family representatives at Capitol Hill.

Check out our Q&A with Robin discussing her policy plans, her experiences with child care as a new mom, and her thoughts on how important affordable child care is for Black women in Mississippi providing for their families.

How did MS BWR help you maintain a work-life balance as a new mom?

When I returned to work full-time after having my son, RJ, I was able to do hybrid work. On days that I worked on admin tasks for my department, I would work from home. And then on the days I had to go to the office, I could bring RJ and there was space to accommodate us both. 

MS BWR provided a space big enough for us both, where I could privately feed and change my son throughout the day. He also had toys to play with and a little Pack N’ Play. I was able to take Zoom calls and fulfill my office tasks, and the accommodations helped me a lot while I stabilized myself and looked for child care I could afford.

It was really a community thing. My colleagues were very helpful, and would watch my son or let him play in their office if he was, you know, maybe a little rowdy and I had a Zoom call. It was a family environment. I’m very grateful because I know accommodations are not made for working moms, especially new moms, very often at other organizations. They say it takes a village to raise a child; MS BWR was my village.

Why are childcare accommodations like this important for working moms? Especially Black moms?

Businesses should realize that effectiveness depends on stability. Accommodations are so important because they help moms stabilize while they look for child care, re-adjust to office life, or manage their new routines. 

When businesses do create accommodations, they change the culture. They start a movement and support workplace justice. There are big businesses like Amazon or Google that already provide child care. Hospitals do it too, but we need it in other fields. Black women are some of the lowest-paid workers in the state, and child care is very expensive. Having to cover that cost can severely impact how a mom can support her family. 

How can childcare costs become a financial burden?

The pandemic made people more aware of the importance of child care and early learning programs, making these services much more expensive. When I was looking for child care, the average monthly cost was more than my mortgage. It was like paying college tuition to send my child to a child care center. 

Then there’s the fact that Black women in Mississippi are making less than $15 an hour. That means childcare costs take anywhere between 50 and 60 percent of their income. This is why affordable child care is so necessary; moms are left with only 40 percent of their income to take care of their families. 

Those costs trickle down, hindering a mom’s economic advancement. They have to choose between paying for child care, potentially working a second job, and forgoing degree studies and career advancement or not paying for child care, not accessing early learning for their children, and taking time away from work to find someone to watch their kids. It all links back to economic disparity.

How do you feel about RJ being a representative for Mississippi?

I’m really excited! You know, even though he’s one, I think it’ll be a great experience for him and he’ll have the memories to look back on later. I remember that there were times throughout my childhood where I had opportunities to go to the White House, but it was not something my parents could afford. 

I’m grateful that everything worked out, and that he’s getting this opportunity at such a young age. Hopefully this will be a key start to his advocacy career. I’m also thankful to Zero to Three for being so accommodating, inclusive, and showing different representations of family. 

It was really important for me, as a single mom, to bring somebody else to the event, and they let me bring my sister, Kiersten, who is a co-caregiver to my son. I think it’s important to show that everyone’s support network looks different, and that’s ok!

Why is child care your policy priority for Strolling Thunder?

Because, while there have been federal policies and legislation created for things like universal child care or certain child tax credits for paying for care, more needs to be done. Taking care of a child is one of the hardest things women face, and they need supportive policies in place to help them be at their best. 

I want to talk to our Congress members about this, not so they continue to look at it from a federal level, but for them to see what’s happening in Mississippi. If we’re looking to move Mississippi forward, then increasing affordable child care and access to early education are going to be the ways to do it. 

How is Strolling Thunder inspiring? How do you think other working moms and Black women in Mississippi can mobilize?

Strolling Thunder is important because representation matters. I think being a single mom from Jackson and getting this opportunity with my son, helps moms know that there are people who look like them and are from their community who are going and fighting on their behalf.

I’m hoping this can inspire moms to advocate for what’s beneficial for them, and see where they can activate in their area. This may also power work at the Mississippi Capitol during the 2025 legislative session. Above all, I want this to catch the attention of single moms and get them to say “Hey, I want to do something like that!” and then go take action. 

Responses edited for brevity and clarity.

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CIVIC ENGAGEMENT EMPOWERING NEWS

Organization hosts special screening of “The Little Mermaid” in Pearl

Organizers rented two screens and were able to give out more than 170 tickets. They said the screening was important not only because Halle Bailey was starring in the movie, but the film helps provide representation for Black girls.

“Representation is the most important thing, and to know that a Black girl is going to be our representation, to know that little girls can live up to a princess like that is a very great thing,” said Hollye Weekes, found of Digital Weekes, LLC.

Source: WJTV News 12

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EMPOWERING NEWS

50 Years of the Ms. Foundation: Cassandra Welchlin

Throughout our 50th anniversary year, we’re telling the stories of leaders who have worked with the Ms. Foundation during different periods of the organization’s history. This Q&A was written by Cassandra Welchlin, Executive Director and co-convener of Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, which is a former Ms. Foundation grantee partner. 

Source: Ms. Foundation for Women

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NEWS

Women’s Foundation of the South Expands Signature Programming to Mississippi; Additional Expansion Planned for 2023

Women’s Foundation of the South exists to improve futures for women and girls of color in the South by supporting both women-of-color-led nonprofits who do the same and women-of-color entrepreneurs. The organization is pleased to announce that it ended 2022 by expanding its proprietary program, WŌC @ Rest, to Mississippi. WFS hosted 24 women-of-color-leaders at a two-day WŌC @ Rest retreat along the Gulf Coast of MS in December.

PR Newswire

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HEATLHCARE NEWS

Postpartum Medicaid Extended, 60 days to 12 Months

Jackson, MISS – “Strong babies come from strong moms.” MS Black Women’s Roundtable and our partners said it over and over.  We are, therefore, proud that our voices were heard, Mississippi legislators listened, and that our state has demonstrated a commitment to strong babies by supporting healthy moms, a proven factor in protecting the strength of babies.  MSBWR is pleased that as a result of our advocacy efforts, alongside the efforts of our partners, on March 16th, Governor Tate Reeves signed into law the extension of postpartum Medicaid.

“The bond between a baby and a mom is worth protecting,” Cassandra Welchlin, Executive Director of MSBWR, stated.  “This law will improve the healthcare, longevity, and quality of life for the women, children, and residents. For women, especially Black women with the highest maternal and infant mortality rates, care for pregnant people and postpartum is crucial for their overall health.” In Mississippi, 86% of maternal deaths occur after the baby is born. This law allows Mississippi to catch up with our neighboring states to cover health visits for moms during the first year of their baby’s life. “By offering a bipartisan solution to Mississippi’s infant and maternal morbidity crisis, a diverse collective of Mississippi health advocates successfully bridged the disconnect in Mississippi between overwhelming public opinion and a Medicaid policy driven by ideology,” said Roy Mitchell, Executive Director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program.

Providing one year of postpartum care allows a thorough assessment of the childbearing parent and infant. It gives the mom more time to heal under medical care and the baby more professional monitoring during some of the most substantial early learning periods. This healthcare prioritizes the overall health of women, parents, and their children, thus benefiting entire families.  It means more support for all, especially those moms recovering from complicated pregnancies and infants born with expected and unexpected deficiencies and parents working to provide basic needs for their families.  Moms will not be prematurely forced to return to work because her employer-provided insurance does not cover the family after the traditional 6-8 weeks of leave.  Because of this new law, women will still have access to healthcare.

“The Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable (MSBWR) would like to thank all our partners that made this victory possible. To everyone who called state officials, advocated at the Capitol, and signed petitions, the MSBWR will never forget your countless hours and effort. You helped bring attention to women, parents, children, and Mississippians. Thankfully, all our efforts have paid off, and our state will be a healthier and happier place for it,” said Cassandra Welchlin, MSBWR Executive Director. And our work is not done. We know there is still much to do to improve women’s economic security in our state. MSBWR and its partners will continue to fight for fair policies that help strengthen the economic state of Mississipi women. 

Contact: Ayana Kinnel, akinnel@ddbsms.com 769-226-3725

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EMPOWERING MS VOICES NEWS

Connecting the Dots Foundation, Inc. celebrates Women Storytellers for Women’s History Month

It was a night to remember. It was a time for reflection. It was a moment of appreciation. It was an occasion of encouragement. Those gathered at Connecting the Dots Foundation’s 6th Annual National Women’s History Month Celebration paused to spend time with family, friends, acquaintances, honorees, scholars and artists at the downtown Jackson Convention Complex (105 E. Pascagoula Street, Jackson, Miss.) Saturday, March 11, 2023, at 6 p.m. The theme was Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories. WLBT’s Maggie Wade Dixon and Walt Grayson hosted the affair.

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CIVIC ENGAGEMENT EMPOWERING EMPOWERING POLICY NEWS

Women’s rights activists claim Mississippi’s equal pay bill furthers the gender pay gap

Women make around 82% of what men make in the same job according to a recent national study by Pew Research. The Equal Pay for Equal Work act of 2022 was passed by the Mississippi legislature to address the state’s lack of an equal pay bill. But the Mississippi Black Women’s Round Table says lawmakers need to remove language that carves out several exceptions for wage discrimination. Executive Director Cassandra Welchlin says it allows employers to use pay history and employment gaps as justification for unequal wages.

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EMPOWERING NEWS

Megan West, Erin Pickens among 2023 Women’s History Month honorees

16 WAPT anchors Megan West and Erin Pickens were honored at two separate Women History Month events in the capital city this week. Both women were recognized for their contributions both as local journalists and as community figures.

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HEATLHCARE NEWS

Year of Medicaid For New Moms Heads to Mississippi Governor’s Desk

JACKSON, Miss.—Paheadra Robinson shed tears in the Mississippi Capitol rotunda Tuesday afternoon when she learned that the Mississippi House had finally sent a bill to the governor’s desk that will give new mothers Medicaid for up to 12 months after giving birth—well beyond the state’s current 60-day limit on postpartum coverage.

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NEWS

Meet the Wage Warrior Who Is Working to Close the Pay Gap

Exerpt from Oprah Daily – A longtime grassroots organizer and activist in her home state of Mississippi, Cassandra Welchlin—executive director of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, a nonprofit advancing the economic security of women by training them to be civically engaged and empowering them to become transformational leaders, and cofounder of the Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative, which seeks to improve the economic well-being of Mississippi’s women and their families—is used to getting knocked down professionally. But she never gets knocked out.

In fact, for Welchlin, getting back up to fight for the Black and brown faces she represents is her only option, particularly since those faces remind her of the two women who raised her. “I often say my mother’s life taught me what justice was, and my grandmother’s life taught me what service was,” she says.


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