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Aisha Nyandoro Magnolia Mother’s Trust TED Talk wealth Jackson Mississippi

Source: Courtesy of / Aisha Nyandoro

Aisha Nyandoro tapped into the rich and powerful legacy of her ancestors during her recent TED Talk to advocate for the much-needed redefining of wealth. 

Nyandoro candidly chatted with MadameNoire about the things that have shaped her and the roots behind her nonprofit, Magnolia’s Mother’s Trust. Based in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, the CEO launched the organization in 2018, and it has become the first of its kind in the country to provide guaranteed income to residents in its community. 

By providing $1,000 a month to primarily Black women head of households in federally subsidized housing, the cohort program offers a closer step toward attaining wealth within 12 months than many would assume possible. 

Nyandoro explained in her TED Talk and conversation with MN that the nonprofit’s mission is possible because it starts with sparking conversation on what achieving wealth personally means to an individual. Nyandoro’s thought-provoking notions highlight that the widely accepted understanding of wealth and what wealth looks like isn’t necessarily the same as what people want from their futures when they stop and outline it. 

Society’s perception of wealth so often manifests in an abundance of money, cars, designer clothes and assets to one’s name. However, a broadened and possibly more relevant understanding of having “wealth” might be being able to take care of your loved ones, going back to school, or imagining a better life for you and your tribe. 

For those with an internalized view of wealth that is narrow and non-applicable to their lifestyle, a radical reimagining and outlining of what financial freedom would look like for you specifically is a great place to start. 

What definition of wealth can you abide by that actually serves you? 

Fundamentally, Nyandoro knows that regardless of how someone personally defines wealth, many need money in their pockets to help them achieve those goals. That’s why the self-proclaimed “cash advocate” established Magnolia Mother’s Trust.

Using the liberation tied to financial capital for the advancement of Black women is her job and her passion. As she spoke with MN, she briefly touched on how redefining wealth can be particularly life-changing for Black women because they face socioeconomic and racial disparities that make chasing traditional notions of wealth that they may not even truly desire even more pointless.

Nyandoro is a loving wife and mother to two boys – a 5-year-old and a 12-year-old. While her financial situation may not be the same as her organization’s cohorts, she advocates for a redefining of wealth because she believes it’ll help anyone and everyone who’s ever felt being wealthy is something they couldn’t achieve.

“I do want us to understand that for Black people — when we start talking about traditional generational wealth — the rules and starting point in which we are coming from are not equitable in comparison to other groups.”

“So we cannot kill ourselves trying to attain a finish line that is further away from us. And I think some of us need to ask what we really mean when we say wealth,” Nyandoro said. “What does that look like for our generation? How do we center our dignity and our humanity and our culture and our traditions? And not just Black people, all of us — we are working towards this thing or these things, these trappings that if we’re being honest, only a small subset of America can have.”

“Why are we killing ourselves for this? And why are we buying into the narrative that wealth and upper middle class life and all of that is something that is desirable? I know wealthy people… Some of them aren’t happy.”

The recent TED Talk speaker noted that breaking free from the normal and narrow definition of wealth meant sinking into a more inclusive description that is “truly grounded in equity.”

“I think all of us would benefit from having a broader definition of wealth that’s just not rooted in capitalism. One that’s rooted in dignity and agency and joy and freedom, or whatever you define it as… The definition looks different for everybody.”

Regarding where to start when reestablishing what wealth means to you and what it would mean to achieve it, Nyandoro recommended deep reflection on your life and the future. Regardless of your answers, the Magnolia Mother’s Trust CEO suggested that you question whether the things popping into your head are truly your desires or those dictated to you about what wealth looks like.

“What gives you joy when you think about your life, what comes up? When you think about the end of your life, what do you want people to remember? When you think about where you want to be five years from now, one year from now, six months from now – what does that look, feel and taste like? I think that’s how you start the conversation.”

Advocacy and Black women’s empowerment is something engrained in Nyandoro’s fabric.

The changemaker is the granddaughter of a former sharecropper in the Mississippi Delta, Lula C. Dorsey, who went on to earn multiple degrees, her doctorate and advocate in the Civil Rights Movement. That in her bloodline, in tandem with her “homegrown goodness,” has deeply contributed to Magnolia Mother’s Trust’s life-changing advocacy in Jackson.

“[My grandmother is who] really taught me my first lessons about activism and what it means to be a movement,” Nyandoro reflected. “And what it means to show that love truly is an action and how you show up in community.”

“Magnolia Mother’s Trust in Jackson is so important because I believe that you have to grow where you are planted and activism has to start at home. You have to be an advocate in your own community first… Jackson has provided the perfect backdrop for this work because in doing the work there, we have been able to truly demonstrate that [our guaranteed income model] can be replicated for the world to actually implement and engage upon and replicate.” 

Learn more about Magnolia Mother’s Trust via Springboard to Opportunities.



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