Last April, Toya Graham made headlines when she slapped her 16-year-old son Michael in the face for joining Baltimore rioters protesting the death of Freddie Gray.
CBS interviewed Graham to mark the six-month anniversary of her confrontation with her son and found that she still fears for the safety of her children. She said, “Just this morning, I broke down. And you know, I — it’s just, it’s hard. It’s hard,” acknowledging that the family struggles to make ends meet. She continued, “I know a lot of mothers out here understand where I’m coming from. We’re struggling. We’re struggling, we’re just trying to make sure we keep food on our table for our children, keep them out harm’s way, keep them out of danger.”
Although she was feted on social media for her restraint of her son, when asked if she felt like a “hero mom,” she responded, “I don’t feel like a hero mom — I never did. You know, I never did. He’s my son. And so, if I have to be out there to stop him from doing things that he shouldn’t be doing, then that’s what I’m gonna do… I just don’t feel like a hero. This is a real struggle. When the cameras is gone, the reality of life is still there. It’s still there.”
Baltimore still suffers from violence, and the hierarchy of the city has come apart. Anthony Batts, who served as police commissioner during the riots, was fired by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in July after over 35 people were killed in homicides in May, the highest monthly total for the month of May since 1999. Rawlings-Blake stated in September she would not run for mayor again.
267 people in Baltimore have been killed in homicides in 2015, a 50 percent rise compared to the same period in 2014. Injuries from gun violence in have risen almost 80 percent compared to 2014.
When Michael was queried about his safety at night, he quavered, “No, because it’s dangerous out here at night, you gotta keep looking out your surroundings to see if someone’s going to harm you,” adding that he was frightened after losing two of his friends. He said, “You might wake up one day, or you might not wake up one day.”
Toya Graham acknowledged that it would be impossible for her to guarantee her son’s safety, concluding, “He’s a good boy. I’m 43 years old, and I know there’s nothing out there but harm. But as a 16-year-old, he wants to be outside… But I’m going to protect him.”