‘Mom of the year’: Baltimore woman praised for smacking rioting son

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(CNN) — The Baltimore mother who slapped her son several times and pulled him out of a protest told CNN on Wednesday she wasn’t concerned that she might be embarrassing her son.

Toya Graham

Toya Graham

“Not at all,” Toya Graham told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360˚” in an interview that aired Wednesday night. “He was embarrassing himself by wearing that mask and that hoodie and doing what he was doing.”

The video of Graham yanking her son, Michael Singleton, and slapping him with a right hand as CNN affiliate WMAR recorded has led to the Internet calling Graham #motheroftheyear. Many people have praised the unemployed, single mother of six for going to the Mondawmin Mall and getting her son away from the escalating violence.

Graham told Cooper that she saw her son with a brick in his hand, and she lost control of her emotions and told him to drop it.

“I did (get emotional). You know, once he threw that rock down I said, ‘You weren’t brought up like this,’ ” Graham said.

He’s not a perfect child, but he’s also not a thug, she said.

Michael Singleton

Michael Singleton

The 16-year-old boy said he understood that his mother was there looking out for him.

“She didn’t want me to get in trouble (with the) law. She didn’t want me to be like another Freddie Gray,” he said, referring to the 25-year-old man who died of a severe spinal injury after being arrested by Baltimore police.

Gray’s death has sparked daily protests over police brutality. There have also been riots and looting that prompted the city to put a curfew into effect.

He had a brick in hand

Graham said her son told her the night before the violence at the mall that something was up. She told him then and the next morning not to go. He swore to her he wouldn’t.

Her motherly sense kicked in when she heard school had closed early and the mall was shutting down, too.

She went to the mall and focused on the teens who were tossing rocks and bricks. There he was, in sweatpants she recognized. They made eye contact.

He had a brick in his hand, and that set her off.

“I was so angry with him that he had made a decision to do some harm to the police officers,” she said.

She yelled at him to put the brick down. And then the camera captured her memorable smackdown. She noticed the TV crew but didn’t think anything of it. And she didn’t care.

“I wasn’t there to be recorded. I was there to get my child,” she said.

Tough love

Tameka Brown, one of Graham’s five daughters, told CNN on Tuesday it wasn’t that hard for her mom to spot her 16-year-old half-brother.

“She knows her son and picked him out. Even with the mask on, she knew,” Brown said.

Brown said her mother is always looking out for her children.

“She has always been tough and knows where we are at,” Brown said.

Graham said she tries to steer her son away from potential trouble and troublemakers.

“As long as I have breath in my body I will always try to do right by Michael and show him what’s going on out in society doesn’t have to be you,” she told CNN.

Graham has one fan in police Commissioner Anthony Batts, who thanked her in remarks to the media on Monday night.

“And if you saw in one scene, you had one mother who grabbed their child who had a hood on his head and she started smacking him on the head because she was so embarrassed,” he said. “I wish I had more parents that took charge of their kids out there tonight.”

Google Map for coordinates 39.290385 by -76.612189.


    • Evette

      And parents know where thier teenage children are at all times…unrealistic. Give her some credit for stepping up and getting her kid in line as soon as she found out. Some people just enjoy spreading negative venom, especially when they have underlying prejudice.

      • Wilson

        Good parents who know how to raise kids properly know where their children are at all times. Lousy parents like this mother don’t know where their kids are. They have to recognize them while watching tv……

  • JP79

    Put a camera in front of her and let her talk to the city, she has her S**t together and maybe she can slap some sense into the rest of them.

  • Millie

    This is what parenting should be like…it is obvious this mother cares about the welfare of her child. He may not like it but will thank her someday…Big Applause for Mom

  • somethingothinabout

    This is old school discipline thank God! This is the discipline our parents gave to us when we got out of line. And the liberals will say that it will make us violent. Well let’s look at the current society and how many shootings and school shootings we have. In our generation, we had NONE. We did not dare behave like this or we would get out butts whooped.

    • Sammich Olioso

      You got that right! Growing up in the 70s I got my a** whipped with an electrical cord from my mom “ONCE” and only “ONCE”…..set me straight for good.

  • really

    Good for her..I agree more parents should do the same set the example..love and care about their kids that much

  • listen up

    Hey mom great job, one thing you forgot a couple kick`s , now this is parenting . more people need to start the same thing. And if the child want`s to call a cop, let them, maybe the cop will give him/her a swift one along side of the head too! HAPPY MOTHERS DAY MOM.

    • Mark

      so your kid is out with a large group of lawbreakers, throwing rock at cops and causing havoc on the community. You go into the group, grab him by his shirt, manhandle him aside, all the while smacking the hell out of him for being idiotic enough to be a follower to cowardly actions, instead of acting like a human being. Cops, while trying to avoid getting killed by flying rocks, happen to notice this in all the commotion….. notice that one responsible father is taking action on his own child, and their 1st thought is going to be ‘hey! stop that! arrest that man for showing his kid that what he is doing is wrong!’, as they dodge more flying rocks and run for cover. Really? Let me guess….. you’d wait patiently for your kid to walk in the door, ask him to sit down, and then proceed to explain to him why you feel it’s best you give him a ‘time-out’ to think about his actions. No tv tonight either son. Yeah, that’ll work!

      • Wilson

        Knowing that this riot was brewing this mom of the year didn’t have all 6 of her kids home safe with her??? She has to see her son on tv and then go out and get him and drag him home??? Yeah right mom of the year my as_. She is only good at making kids with various fathers, not raising them…..

      • Mark Wheeler

        this woman reacted exactly how she should’ve given the situation and yet you still want to slam her. She’s not the one saying she’s’ mother of the year’ so why blast her the way you are? She should be very proud of how she handled her son in that situation. I’ll bet her son is proud that he has a mother like he does. Nobody makes all the right choices every day of their life. I have many instances that I can look back on as a parent and am actually embarrassed at how I reacted to certain things.

  • Yahdiel Yisrael

    Well I see this several ways. First all this is is propaganda used as a distraction from what happened to Freddie Grey; and countless other so called african americans throughout the u.s., and the protest itself. This mother is no hero, mother of the year or nothing extraordinary. Yes I commend her for rebuking her son, yet disagree in the way in which she did it. humiliating him on a national stage is not wise. With that said I commend the young brotha for his restraint, and for allowing his mom to do that which many of my young brothas would not allow; and would have fought back. This is a testament to the decent upbringing that the parent[s] instilled in this young man. However this is proof all she had to say was go home, and he would have oblige to stop from being embarrassed. Now had she done such a thing under normal circumstances many would have accused her of being out of control, and some would even say child abuse. Being society don’t allow us to discipline our children as in time past. And finally the sista stirred the flames of the aged old saying that so called black women are angry, and/or that they can save their sons without the aid of the children fathers. No children need fathers especially so called african americans; and if we’re to save our children humiliation is not the answer. The answer is in teaching, but the parents must be taught first. What? Well thats for another place another time…….
    being a big part of our history is lost.

  • Patrick Los

    While she did a good thing in getting her son out of the fracas…I just have to ask…WHY DOES SHE HAVE 6 CHILDREN (by at least 2 men) AND NO HUSBAND?

    Can we imagine that her choices up to this TV moment were not so brilliant…and certainly not the kind of thing that makes someone “mom of the year” ???

    * six children
    * at least 2 different men (the daughter mentions that michael is her her “half brother” )
    * unemployed
    * she may THINK that she’s doing a good job raising her six fatherless children…but if these are the choices that her son michael made…then maybe she’s not doing such a good job at building their character after all.

    I know people with large families (3,, 5 even 7 kids!) and the ONLY WAY these parents are doing a good job so far is because they are a commtted, married parental UNIT, along with many family and friends living nearby who help with childcare, homework, discipline, role modeling and LOVE.

    Good for her for saving her child right then. I do hope that he straightens out and doesn’t involve himself in this kind of thing again.

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