A mother escapes the streets, the daughter dies in them

The Baltimore Sun

The mother was a heroin addict and a prostitute.

Her daughter sometimes danced at the Baltimore School for the Arts and graduated from Edmondson High.

The mother was diagnosed HIV-positive three years after she gave birth.

Her daughter wanted to be a child care provider and work with the deaf.

The mother escaped the streets, got married and now, at 46, counsels drug users and distributes condoms and AIDS prevention pamphlets.

Her daughter, 27, was killed last week - stabbed during a fight that started a inside a club on The Block, where she was known as Candy and had stripped for money after giving up her steady job at a bank because it didn't pay enough.

Takira Leray Johnson-Bey had talked her mother, Angela Jackson, off the street and into treatment. Then, the daughter surrendered her future for a few quick bucks dancing naked on a stage on Custom House Avenue.

"When she died, I was angry with God," Jackson told me while raising money for a funeral service from which she has already cut the limo and beautician to save a few hundred dollars. "God told me, 'If you stop doing drugs, stop tricking, you'll be safe.' I did all that - I got a job, got married, got better - and God still took my daughter."

Jackson was the subject of one part of a series published last November in The Sun tracing the roots of the HIV epidemic in West Baltimore. Her picture appeared on the front page, an example of a woman who escaped a life of back-alley sex, disease and a $2,000-a-day heroin and cocaine habit.

The picture showed her with two of her daughters. Johnson-Bey, the eldest of the three sisters, was not in the photograph.

By then, she was working the clubs and had a boyfriend. She later got pregnant; her son was born five months ago, premature and saddled with a birth defect, and remains hospitalized. Jackson might have to raise her grandson.

Johnson-Bey started stripping at house parties after seeing friends rake in money by taking off their clothes, and that led to the clubs and to The Block. Her mother said she managed to stay away from drugs and didn't work as a prostitute, and had told her she wanted to get out.

"She was tired of the lifestyle," her mother said. "It's not easy to get out of the lifestyle. It's like the Mafia: Many people want to keep you in. There are only two ways out - handcuffs or death."

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