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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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