INDIANAPOLIS — After losing her mother to AIDS from a contaminated blood transfusion, an Indianapolis woman is sharing her story in hopes of stopping the stigma surrounding the disease.
LaTia McCray says she’s working to make sure her mother’s legacy lives on and makes a difference for others.
“That is the reason why I am who I am today. That fight that she had as a mother during that time to protect us,” said McCray.
She wants her mom’s memory to make an impact.
“She is really the light of my life, my mom. She is definitely my hero.”
After delivering her fourth child, her mom, Toni Elaine McCray had complications and was given a blood transfusion that they later found out had HIV-positive blood.
A few years later, she died from AIDS.
“As a mother with four kids and a wife who had her whole life ahead of her, and she wasn’t able to meet her grandkids,” said McCray.
“She didn’t get to see the legacy.”
Growing up, LaTia says they didn’t talk about her mother’s illness because of the stigma it carried.
“My mother was afraid of how she would be represented in the world. My mother was afraid of sharing her truth. So, with not sharing her truth, I believe my mother did not die in peace,” said McCray.
As an adult, she decided to open a salon in her honor.
“Everything that was in my salon represented her. And I wanted to bring her to life and share her with the world,” McCray said.
At the Toni Elaine Salon, she did hair and sold jewelry.
“I was able to tell the story of my mother to every client. And it was a healing for me to be able to share that for many, many years,” she said.
Renee Bigsby was a stylist at Toni Elaine Salon for three years.
“When you walk in it’s very elegant. It’s inviting, it’s calm. It has all the vibes,” said Bigsby.
Bigsby says LaTia sharing her mother’s story made an impact on their customers.
“It’s important for people to know because nobody is alone, everybody is going through something. Whether it be that or any other illnesses,” Bigsby said.
Now, LaTia has closed the doors on that chapter of her life and is looking to honor her mother’s legacy in a new way that she hopes will make a difference for other families.
“I decided to become what I’d never seen. I’d never seen a Black financial representative,” McCray said.
As a financial representative, she hopes to help people like she wishes someone would have helped her father, Albert McCray, who had a paralyzing stroke shortly after her mom died.
“Just from the stress of taking care of four kids, the lack of resources and the knowledge he had at the time as a father — that was a lot on him,” LaTia said.
“So, he is now unable to speak or walk and is in a long-term care facility.”
Now, she’s helping clients like Tamika Patterson plan for their financial futures.
“Her story is actually relatable. So just being able to have that person that I can talk to. Like, really express my concerns with investing and doing different things like that. It’s just helped,” said Patterson.
LaTia says even though her parents couldn’t plan for their future, helping others in their honor is an investment into their legacy.
“We can’t prevent things from happening, but we can plan for the unexpected,” said McCray.