John-John Williams IV, MSN
BALTIMORE (MSN) — Three weeks ago, Toya Graham was a recently unemployed single mother of six and grandmother of one struggling to scrape by in West Baltimore.
Today, she’s the beneficiary of a growing GoFundMe page, and a scholarship fund has been established for her 16-year-old son. She’s fielding job offers, she said, from BET, Under Armour and St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“I told them all yes,” she said. “I know I can’t work all of those jobs. But, I didn’t want to seem ungrateful.”
Graham’s newfound opportunities are the result of one indelible moment: She confronted her son with a barrage of slaps — just as he was poised to throw rocks at police officers by Mondawmin Mall. Captured on video, it was one of the unforgettable scenes from the unrest related to Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who died as a result of injuries sustained while in police custody.
The clip catapulted her to overnight fame, with whirlwind appearances on almost every major news network and on shows such as “The View.” She even received a call of support from Oprah Winfrey.
The change in fortune brings her to tears.
“It’s really overwhelming,” she said, sitting in a couch in her living room, where framed pictures of her family and religious scripture adorn a glass table atop paneled wood floors. “When you have struggled for so long, you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. It means a lot. … I’m grateful that they heard me say I was struggling.”