TAYLA SOLOMAN is the team's deadpan wit, who quips that she is
just "a notch down from BeyoncĂ©" in her skills. She is also the only child of a
single mother, Maisha Graves, who is dead-set on the idea that her daughter will
have opportunities she never had. After completing her graveyard shift as a
corrections officer, Maisha rushes directly from work to every step practice,
boisterously cheering not just Tayla but every girl on the team. Anything but
laid-back, Graves sometimes is too much for Tayla, but everyone on the team can
see where her heart is at.
Their resilient mother-daughter bond - at times tense, but always full of love
and pride -- becomes another hinge of the movie. "Your mother is so very
important in who you are and who you turn out to be," observes Amanda Lipitz.
"At BLSYW, there are always moms around. They take desk jobs in the school or
become involved in whatever way they can. They find a way to be there."
From the first time she attended a practice, Graves felt drawn to reinvent
herself as the den mother for the entire BLSYW step team. "I wanted a lot of
children I wasn't able to have," she says. "Instead, I was blessed with 19 girls
on a step team and I love each and every one of them like family."
She could see right away the impact step was having on the girls' confidence at
a vital juncture in their lives. "I saw each and every one of them, in their own
unique way, being able to express everything that they're going through and just
let everything out," Graves observes.
When Lipitz began joining the team practices with her film crew, Graves welcomed
her, too. "From the beginning, I felt Amanda's vision of the girls was genuine.
I could feel her link to them. She treated all the girls the same, and she
treated the parents the same way. And me, I read through people. I'm
straightforward, and we just connected from day one."
That connection meant everything to Graves because she believes in creating
family wherever you find like-minded people - or people who need it. "People
think family is just blood and it's not. It's about love and care, the morals
and values that you have in common," she says.
Graves carries a deep gratitude for what BLSYW opened up for Tayla. "It was the
best investment I ever made, to allow my daughter to go here," she reflects.
"With the family atmosphere, and the way everyone helps each other, they
instilled in her early the idea that she could go to college. They offered her
courses that truly prepare you. They didn't offer that in any schools when I was
coming up. And then Tayla was willing to take the next step and further her
Today, Tayla is attending Alabama A&M on a scholarship. "I'm very proud of her,"
concludes her mother.
The Lethal Ladies from the class of '16 and '17 are now attending a wide range
of schools such as John Hopkins University, University of Maryland, Bethune-Cookman
University, Alabama A&M University and Bowie State University.
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