Obama’s Answer to Baltimore’s “Momma Bear”

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Toya Graham and her son, Michael, met the president last night.
Toya Graham and her son, Michael, met the president last night.

During last year’s protests after Freddie Gray’s death in police custody, Toya Graham became briefly famous when she snatched her teenage son away from the building unrest. Last night, Graham and other Baltimore mothers got a minute with President Obama during a town hall conversation.

Graham told the president that she’s a single mom of five kids: “It is so hard trying to keep them out of harm’s way when your trying to keep a job and do right…. As a single mother, what can I do?” The president acknowledged the need for more programs that support single moms, such as after-school programs.


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Obama also spoke with Teri George, the mother of a Baltimore police officer, who asked how her son is supposed to protect himself when tensions between community members and police are so high. The president’s answer? Healthier communities will support healthier relations between people and those who police them.

The president didn’t really have a concrete answer for either woman–but perhaps that’s because their questions were bigger and broader than anything that can be solved by changing policy or passing laws. Both women’s basic questions can be boiled down to why do things seem so bad right now, and how are we supposed to live our lives in an environment where violence feels ever-present. The president didn’t necessarily have a good answer for that–but how could he?



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