Black mothers will always lose: In defense of Baltimore mom Toya Graham!

Warning: This is a two part post.

Toya Graham. Image via Screen Capture

Toya Graham. Image via Screen Capture

By Bougie Black Girl

I promised not to write about Baltimore. Forgive me all, but I feel compelled to do something that rarely is but needs to be done. I am defending a Black mother, Baltimore mom Toya Graham. You see many are upset at Ms. Graham because she unknowingly disciplined her son on live TV during the Baltimore riots.

Watch a critic here:


These people disagree with her actions. Instead of seeing her as a mom who was protecting her child, they’ve resorted to sexism by attacking Ms. Graham’s hair and clothing choices. They are asking why she didn’t nicely ask her son to come home because in their minds, she was reinforcing violence. They say she was reinforcing stereotypes of the angry Black woman, but those same critics are using racist stereotypes against her. They have assumed Ms. Graham is poor, desperate and lonely. Others called her an agent and wondered why she didn’t throw rocks beside her son. Some even blamed her being a single mom and asked where is the father. Isn’t this the same kind of thing these guardians of all things Black claim to be against?

I see it like this. As a mom of  two beautiful boys, Black moms can’t win. Either we are the reason our kids are dying or we should let our kids throw rocks at the police, become another martyr and be a picture on a Black Lives Matter poster. For some, if Black children don’t succeed, it is because of Black mothers and if they do succeed, Black children succeeded despite Black mothers. In this case, either Ms. Graham is a race traitor coon for grabbing her son off the street or if he were killed during the riots, Ms. Graham would be labeled as a horrible mother.

Before you fall back on your neverolutionary logic, check out what happened to Allen Bullock. Allen, who is 18, recently turned himself over to the police after being seen smashing in car windows during the Baltimore riots. His bail is $500,000, and he faces life in prison. Allen’s family cannot afford the bail, and he is still in jail. That is what the neverolutionaries wanted Ms. Graham’s son fate to be. Fighting for the cause! Are they willing to send Allen money? Will they pay for Allen’s defense? Instead of waging sexist and racist attacks, would they proclaim how Ms. Graham is great mother who gave her child up for the cause? If you are serious about your cause, why not get Allen out of jail? Put your money where your mouth is and donate to the Legal/Bail Support for Baltimore to help people like Allen Bullock out!

The people criticizing Ms. Graham ain’t worth a damn. They are invested in dead Black bodies lying in the street and filling up jails. While they are comfortable in their middle-class enclaves, getting interviewed on TV, writing think pieces, running off to the next crisis and getting paid, people like Allen and Ms. Graham deal with the consequences. Why else would they be against a Black mother saving her son?

Ms. Graham is a hero. She did the right thing and should be mother of the year. She bravely stood between the police and rioters. She saved her Black son from a prison sentence or death. Isn’t that the outcome the critics of Ms. Graham claim to want?

So keyboard warriors, neverolutionaries, think piece writers, cultural critics and academic elitist, our children will not be cannon fodder for your revolution. Our children will not be another bullet point for your resume. Our children will not be the next topic for your book deal, and our children will not be another face on a poster. We are going to do anything to protect our children. Fight, scratch, yell or what ever. If that means standing between your keyboard, TV time, your paycheck and the police, we will.

One more thing. I realize it is easy to send other people’s children to fight and die in wars. It is harder to support it when it is your kid doing the fighting and dying. So if Black lives really mattered to critics of Ms. Graham, I wonder if they are willing to make the same sacrifice they wanted Ms. Graham to make? Are they willing to serve up their children and grandchildren to the racist criminal justice system and end up where Allen is? Are they willing to watch their children be maimed or die for their cause? If not, they are full of it. We stand in defense of Ms. Toya Graham and Black mothers all over the world and I hope you do too. Critics, keep her name out of your mouth while we protect our children from those of you fighting keyboard wars and the police.


By Shanay Watson-Whittaker
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Shanay Watson-Whittaker

To My Dear Friends in Black Intelligencia, Leave Toya Graham Alone!

This morning, I went ham when I viewed a CNN segment featuring Black activist, Michaela Angela Davis. She was on Carol Costello’s show talking about Baltimore mother, Toya Graham – the mother who stopped her son from throwing rocks at the police. What was amazing was how easily Michaela Angela Davis adopted and used Black female stereotypes to describe Toya Graham. To soften her bigoted language, she added, “This is not an indictment of Ms. Graham.” Chile please! It was a total indictment of Toya Graham and poor Black women everywhere. The cringe worthy segment felt like it should have taken place at a wine tasting in a Hamptons’ beach house instead of on television.

In the segment, Ms. Davis described Ms. Graham as “desperate,” “poor,” and “lonely.” What the hell? How do you know if she is lonely? You know what, there are people within Ms. Davis’ circles who actually share the same opinion. Shoot, if you take Ms. Davis’ language and put former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s face on it, the same Black people agreeing with her opinion would go crazy! Today, if Senator Moynihan used the same language, some Black people would have declared a Twitter war on him.

We have a problem. We have a class divide within Black America. I like to lurk in Black Intelligencia circles and recently, I’ve noticed a pattern – the continued dehumanization of Toya Graham. Some Black elitists have called her a “symbol,” a “distraction from Freddie Gray.” Also, they’ve privately criticized her for yolking up her son publically. They said, she “emasculated him.” She’s the reason “why we need Black fathers in the home.”  There are elitist amongst Ms. Davis’ ranks that have teased, criticized, and cajoled Ms. Graham because of her accent and her slang. Oh and here’s my favorite criticism, the White media is using Toya Graham to “justify the abuse of Black bodies.”

People forget that Ms. Toya Graham did not ask someone to record her. So I don’t understand why Black elitist are demonizing and stereotyping her. They are treating Ms. Graham like a child that doesn’t know better. They don’t know her and will never have to experience her everyday struggles. One more thing, I am tired of Black Intelligencia sacrificing the plight of a Black woman for a Black man. We can expect justice for Freddie Gray and we can support and uplift Toya Graham too!

I identify with Ms. Graham. I am a Black mother of six kids, I am poor and I am unemployed. I am neither lonely nor desperate. Everyday, I am “trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents” and like Ms. Graham, I don’t want to be criticized for disciplining my children. Unlike some members of the Black Intelligencia, I don’t have to quote a rap lyric just to feel real.

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Shanay Watson-Whittaker

Shanay Watson-Whittaker is a Democratic activist and organizer. She was the former Chair of the Young Democrats of America Minority Caucus. Shanay is the owner of  the Detroit’s Jerk Shack, she is a motivational speaker, a blogger at La Femme Negrita and a genealogy enthusiast. She lives in Detroit, MI with her husband, Ken and their six kids. You can follow Shanay on Twitter as LaFemme_Negrita and you can reach her at

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  1. Jacque 1 May, 2015 at 14:06 Reply

    she was a frightened mother doing the best that she could.
    she was not posing for the damn cameras….she wanted to keep her baby safe.
    she seemed terrified.
    I’ve seen that very look on my mother’s face….when you are faced with losing everything.
    She and no mom should have to face that danger

  2. Penny 3 May, 2015 at 13:34 Reply

    This poor woman is being maligned for taking action to remove her child from what she knew was a dangerous situtation. I’m sure she didn’t raise him to go out and act a fool in public like that and put his life in danger. I applaud this woman, and would likely have done the same thing had that been my child in that situation. Her son was too young and emotionally carried away by the moment to fully realize what he was risking. I’m sure she had a few things to say to him once she got him out of immediate danger. Her appearance, style of dress and anything else about her have nothing to do with what she was trying to do. Her detractors should be ashamed of themselves for criticizing a mother acting in the best interests of her child.

  3. Von 3 May, 2015 at 22:06 Reply

    I can’t even stomach Michaela A. Davis because she has her sights on being a regular on television. Anyway, I stand in solidarity with Miss Graham. Even Rush Limbaugh called her out on her hypocrisy.

    As a divorced mother of five now adult children, including one son, I know all too well how tough love plays a part in raising a responsible and productive black male in America. I succeeded and I’m proud of the man he’s become.

    These “neverloutionary” faux elite blacks are the laughing stock of America because they want to use the working poor to do their dirty work for them because they’re too afraid to stand up to white supremacists. It shows that they don’t care for what happens, especially if it results in unnecessary martyrdom.

    If he was my son, I would have done the same thing. I did not tolerate excuses for failure and I did not raise my children to be victims. I watched my parents marriage disolve because my mother never wanted my father to discipline my brother’s. Once he was gone all she did was coddle them and raise her daughter’s. We’re the successful ones and they’re the ones who went to prison and to this day, they think we will continue to provide for them. Not!

    The moral of the story is: that as parents, whether we are single or married: we must hold our children accountable for their actions and teach them that they have two choices in life: to either thrive or die.

  4. G.A. 4 May, 2015 at 00:11 Reply

    What’s sad is Allen Bullock’s Indiegogo page has only raised 1% of the funds needed for his bail since his arrest. Where are all of these people that hailed him as a hero? What’s even sadder is Toya Graham’s son could have easily been Allen Bullock —sitting in jail with bail unpaid.

  5. AliciaFiasco 4 May, 2015 at 10:29 Reply

    When we learn how to better communicate with our children, without using our fists, we will most certainly win. Toya Graham, and mothers like her, who feel that assaulting children is the only way to get them to listen will learn a hard lesson in the long run. Her son will eventually come to understand that he doesn’t have to deal with his mother’s beatings. He will decide for himself the path he takes. This is why our words will always be more powerful than our fists. And people continue to miss the fact that years of beatings has not kept our black youth out of jail! This is because no matter what parents do, their children are targets. So the best way to arm our children is to arm them with love, build their confidence and not take out our frustrations with the system on them. I respect Toya Graham as a mother who loves her children, I do not respect what she did. We have to find an actually healthy way of showing our children we love them. That’s the very best we can do for them. Abusing them will never save them, ever. And it’s about time we call it what it is. We’ve internalized and rationalized a lot of abusive practices and it has only worked against us. We can do better. We can’t afford not to.

  6. AveryJarhman 6 May, 2015 at 01:46 Reply

    Child Abuse/Neglect; Is Baltimore Mom Toya Graham Perpetuating Poverty & Prejudice?

    Edward A. Flynn, Milwaukee’s chief of police, “These communities need police. And they need police not just to be present, but to be active in seeking out criminals.”

    In his 2015 Grammy award winning Rap Performance titled “I”, Kendrick Lamar writes, “I’ve been dealing with depression ever since an adolescent.”

    In the meantime, who is addressing why many people living in poor American communities are depressed, often venting their anger and frustrations by harming their peaceful neighbors?

    Has anyone asked Baltimore resident and “Mom of The Year” Toya Graham if she believes she is partly responsible for the recurring cycle of poverty that harms so many children, including her son Michael who she observed committing a depraved act against peaceful people trying to protect the community from other abused or neglected children?

    Will Baltimore mother Toya Graham and the hundreds of moms much like her who I met while providing police services to a Rap Hip Hop influenced Brooklyn, NY community, realize she was young and immature for acting irresponsibly and building a family of six depressed children who have to struggle, instead of having one or two relatively happy, peaceful kids she could more easily provide for, school and supervise?

    Does Ms. Graham realize she is complicit in adding to the pain and poverty many Americans of all ages suffer?

    Rejecting reality, Toya Graham informs CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “At no time is my son a thug.”

    I understand a mother’s desire to protect her child as well as her rep as a good mom, though after this remark, how can anything Ms. Graham offers be viewed as truthful?


  7. linda 10 May, 2015 at 20:47 Reply

    I don’t think it’s fair to make Toya Graham the posterwoman for child abuse. Unless someone is walking in her shoes, which must be very difficult, then they shouldn’t judge her reaction. I can’t say what I might have done under the same circumstances. When my son was a teen, I was working for the Department of Human Services, and there were times when I reacted to his behavior “unprofessionally”. It’s hard to be a parent. And much harder to be a single mom. That said, I can’t believe someone wrote the following: ” she was young and immature for acting irresponsibly and building a family of six depressed children who have to struggle, instead of having one or two relatively happy, peaceful kids she could more easily provide for, school and supervise” Really? Do us a favor, please, and work, like I did, in social services – you will encounter all manners of families of all socioeconomic backgrounds. the number of children has no effect whatsoever on the family’s “relative happiness”. And neither does the amount of money. I should know, some of our most heartbreaking cases involved families living in Eagle County, Colorado (home to the ultra-tony resort towns of Aspen and Vail!!!) If you’re intimating that her six children are depressed because she cannot financially support them, then how do you explain a rich child who commits suicide? Better yet, consider Adam Lanza, the Butcher of Newtown. With all the money his mother was receiving in alimony from her corporate executive ex-husband, and which supported, Adam Lanza as well, they should both have been living, as you put it, “peaceful, relatively happy” lives. At least Toya Graham prevented her son from throwing rocks at the police (and potentially getting killed). Where was Adam Lanza’s mother when he mowed down the little children of Sandy Hook Elementary School? Oh that’s right, he killed her, too.

  8. wdigaf 11 May, 2015 at 22:03 Reply

    I think Toya Graham did what she had to do to try to keep her son from doing something dumb. That being said, the way she slapped him around in public, I wouldn’t find it hard to believe she’d never done it before in private.

    No mother wants to be put in the position she found herself in. I don’t know the woman’s situation but who.doesn’t know that an (maybe? Idk) unemployed Black single mother of six, living in the hood is going to be the object of.criticism, derision & judgmeby generaization? I wouldn’t want to be in her position.

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