Toya Graham is Not Your Hero

Toya Graham, the woman all over the media for slapping her 16 year old son on camera in order to stop him from rioting in Baltimore, is not your hero. She was not trying to embarrass him. She was trying to save his life; she didn’t want him to be another hashtag, another Freddie Gray. However, most of the world is looking at this video and laughing despite the fact that it wasn’t funny. There is no understanding of the black mothers plight.

For those that are unaware, April 12, 2015, Freddie Carlos Gray of Baltimore, MD was illegally arrested and detained, and died on April 19th from a severed spinal cord after numerous cries for medical services during his arrest and the hours that followed. On April 27th, the same day as Gray’s funeral, several protests and riots occurred in the streets of west Baltimore. Some peaceful, others not as peaceful, resulting in several burned and looted buildings including but not limited to CVS, a senior citizens home, a mall, various liquor stores, and other locations.

That afternoon, Toya Graham’s son, Michael Singleton who was dressed in mostly black and a face mask and wielded a rock, attempted to join the riots, and Graham attempted to pull him away, smacking him while doing so and yelling at him to “take the f-ing mask off,” “I didn’t raise you like this,” and other similar phrases. A bystander who eventually uploaded it onto social networking sites and shown on many news stations videotaped the scene. Many people have applauded her actions, calling her a hero for attempting to end the violence (at least in some aspect). Others have been thrown into fits of giggles over her actions even though this is no laughing matter.

Michael is Graham’s only son, and as stated earlier, she does not want his name to be the next hashtag; she doesn’t want to bury her son. Graham understands the dynamic between black men and the justice system where black men are targeted and feared more than their white counterparts. Graham understands that if her son were to go out at night (or out at all) he could have a target on his back due to his skin color, and she does not want him to do anything to make the situation even worse. She does not want to give anyone a reason to kill her son.

However, due to Graham’s parenting style and despite the fact that she has been hailed as “mother of the year” and only wants the best for her child, Baltimore’s Child Protection Services will be investigating Graham and her home because of what was shown since she has five other children. She was merely looking out for her son and following up with what she said (Graham had previously told him not to join the rioting(; Child Protective Services should not have had to intervene especially because they had never gotten a report about her or one of her other children before.

Published by

Ashley Elizabeth

Ashley Elizabeth (she/her) is a writing consultant, teacher, and poet. Her works have appeared in SWWIM, Rigorous, Mineral Lit, Sante Fe Writer Project, Knights Library, and Kahini Quarterly, among others. In June 2020, Ashley was the featured writer at Drunk Monkeys. She is also the author of the chapbook, you were supposed to be a friend (Nightingale & Sparrow). When Ashley isn't serving as assistant editor at Sundress Publications or working as a member of the Estuary Collective, she habitually posts on Twitter and Instagram (@ae_thepoet). She lives in Baltimore, MD with her partner and their cat. Once COVID is over, they plan on going on a foodie road trip.

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