"As long as everyone here as been alive, there has been a Stokes patching that wall around Harlem. You need me out there. You want me out there. Because without me, God help Harlem. God help us all."
―Mariah Dillard[src]

Mariah Dillard (née Stokes), was a powerful woman working in Harlem politics looking to bring a new era of change to the streets she grew up on. Her personal life and professional career are thrown into turmoil by both Luke Cage as well as her cousin Cottonmouth's nefarious acts. As her political career was falling apart, Dillard reached her breaking point and murdered her cousin, forcing her to work with Shades to protect herself as she slowly became indoctrinated into the crime world, working with Diamondback while Misty Knight attempted to bring her to justice. Dillard was spared jail by ordering the murder of the only witness Candace Miller and accepted her new role of crime lord of Harlem.

Dillard's plans on retirement from the criminal underworld and building a relationship with her daughter, Tilda Johnson, were challenged however by the arrival of Bushmaster, who was furiously seeking his violent revenge on the Stokes family for what Mama Mabel had done to his own family years earlier. As her world fell apart, Dillard sought the aid of Luke Cage to keep her alive, while furiously striking against Bushmaster's own family. After being nearly burned alive by Bushmaster, Dillard accepted that she was a Stokes and a criminal, and embracing her maiden name, massacred several innocent people, causing Shades to turn against her. She was arrested and later poisoned by her own daughter in Ryker's Island. In her final action, Stokes gave Cage sole possession of Harlem's Paradise, seeking to test if Cage could keep his morals while controlling the criminals himself, turning him into a kingpin of crime.


Early Life

Life with Mama Mabel

"Did I ask you anything, Little May?"
"The girl's got a point."
"She don't need you to defend her."
"I know she don't. Because she's gonna be a lawyer, and she's gonna be able to defend her damn self. Ain't that right, baby?"
Mama Mabel and Pistol Pete[src]

Mariah Stokes was born in Harlem where she was raised by the Stokes family under the leadership of Mama Mabel. When another relation left the baby Cornell Stokes on their doorstep, Mariah was given the responsibility of raising him. Mabel often told her about her grandfather Buggy Stokes who built their family empire with Quincy McIver.[1]

During Stokes' trip to Jamaica, Mariah read her book while Cornell played in the pool. Eventually, she found John McIver who looked at Gwen McIver discussed their business with Mabel and Pistol Pete. She demanded him to get her something to drink in exchange for her silence about him.[2]

During her time in the household, Mariah witnessed Mabel selling guns and running prostitution rings, however, Mabel pushed Mariah to focus on her education. Mariah however also had to deal with her uncle Pistol Pete who would sexually abuse her, causing Mabel to send her away to various posh schools.[3] When the rapes produced a daughter, Tilda, Mabel denied Mariah an abortion and instead sent Tilda to be raised by Mamie Johnson before eventually marrying Mariah off to Jackson Dillard, both to appease Jackson's homophobic parents and to obscure Tilda's true parentage.[4]

While Mariah was studying and Cornell was playing the piano one day, Mariah and Pete recommended to Mabel that Stokes be sent to a posh school to continue his music. They then witnessed Pop arriving with Donnie, only for Pop to be sent away and Mabel to confront Donnie for selling drugs on the streets of Harlem. When Donnie tried to defend his actions by claiming that selling drugs was the only way to make money, Mabel responded by cutting off his fingers while sending Mariah upstairs to continue her study and not witness what happened next.[3]

Executing Pistol Pete

Cottonmouth kills pete

Dillard sees Cornell Stokes killing Pistol Pete

"You deserve this for what you did to our family. What you did to me."
"Hey, hey, Little May. That was... what you talking about? You laughed with me, it was... it was a game."
―Mariah Stokes and Pistol Pete[src]

From her window, Mariah heard Mama Mabel forcing Cottonmouth to shoot Pistol Pete for betraying the family, which he refused at first. Mama Mabel kept forcing and encouraging him to shoot, while Pete was encouraging him not to. Discreetly, Mariah watched from the window waiting to see Pete's death. When Cottonmouth was unable to shoot him, Mariah walked outside and told Cottonmouth that Pistol Pete deserved to die. Cottonmouth then executed Pete while Mariah watched.[3]

Political Campaign

Madame Councilwoman

Mariah stares

Dillard visits the rebuilt Harlem's Paradise

"You two shouldn't even be seen together let alone having me all up in the Kool-Aid."
"But you're here anyway. Something must be right about it, otherwise, you wouldn't have fronted me if you didn't agree."
"I have no illusions about our family's legacy. But you are now turning legitimate money illegal all over again."
―Mariah Dillard and Cottonmouth[src]

Dillard eventually became involved in politics and nominated herself to represent Harlem within the city council. While visiting Harlem's Paradise to see Cornell Stokes, Dillard listened to Raphael Saadiq. Dillard and Stokes went on to discuss their improvement of the Paradise since Mama Mabel's death, with Dillard noting how proud she was of her cousin. He reminded her of Colon's Gym donation for him and her real-estate project, which disgusted her that he would make a deal with a drug lord and told Stokes that politics was the only true form of power. However, Stokes still reminded her that whenever it was not politics, it was his method of crime that kept her work stable.

Mariah 5

Dillard listens to Stokes and Domingo Colon

The pair were then joined by Domingo Colon, and Dillard questioned why he was there. Stokes explained his deal should have happened while Pistol Pete was alive. Colon asked if he made this deal, then Dillard would get him out of jail, much to her disagreement, noting what had happened to Wilson Fisk. Stokes remained confident and reminded her that if she disagreed with his methods, she would not front him for money. He then described to Dillard and Colon about the Hammer Industries weapons that Diamondback gave him. Dillard, however, disagreed that this deal could not be as easy.

Dillard sees Luke

Dillard notices Luke Cage as he brings drinks

When the group ran out of their bottles of champagne, Luke Cage was sent up with some extra bottles of Ace of Spades alongside Candace Miller. Once Cage brought the bottles, Stokes stopped him and took notice of his large size, with Dillard mockingly taking notice of his suit's size, which was far too small for him. Stokes, then, offered him a job as a bodyguard, but he declined the offer. Later, Stokes would get the news of an inside job which interrupted the deal, involving Dante Chapman, Shameek Smith and Chico Diaz, keeping that information secret from Dillard.[5]

New Harlem Renaissance

Dillard politics

Dillard is interviewed about her campaign

"I don't get the money, I'm facing an audit. We all go to jail."
"It'll be there."
"What happened at the junkyard last night? And who's the dude in the sunglasses behind you? Is he after the money, too?"
―Mariah Dillard and Cottonmouth[src]

While holding a benefit for the New Harlem Renaissance campaign, where she greeted all the children attending, Dillard caught sight of Zip and Sugar watching her closely, much to her annoyance. During an interview with Megan McLaren, she explained her purpose for the Crispus Attucks Complex and her vision for a better Harlem. During the interview, Cornell Stokes arrived and waited for her with Shades and Tone.

Stokes with Dillard

Dillard asks Cornell Stokes about the money

With the interview done, Dillard told Stokes she wanted his thugs away from her. Telling her assistant, Tony, to leave, Dillard demanded the money from Stokes, stating that federal grants were used to build Harlem's Paradise and the deal with Domingo Colon that went south. Stokes promised the money and Dillard warned him that if she does not get the money, she would face an audit and they will both go to jail. Dillard asked what happened in the junkyard, but Stokes did not answer, reminding Dillard that she either got all the details of his work or none of them, so Dillard simply walked away from him.

Dillard then decided it was best to leave Cottonmouth to use his own methods to locate the stolen money from Chico Diaz and Shameek Smith, turning a blind eye to whatever he did to achieve that goal as long as her reputation remained clean and she could continue her own work without running into legal trouble. Later that night, she began making pamphlets for the New Harlem Renaissance campaign, focusing on that work, rather than how she was using the money gained from the illegal deals with Domingo Colon and her own cousin.[5]

Receiving Half of the Money

Dillard receives money

Dillard receives half of the promised money

"You promised this would be taken care of, but it's not."
"You don't give me orders. We're partners. You're not my boss."
"We're family, Cornell, but think about it. Do you really want to go to jail? Do you want to lose your club?"
―Mariah Dillard and Cottonmouth[src]

While working at the Crispus Attucks Complex, Dillard was visited by Cornell Stokes, who had his man Tone deliver half of the money that had been stolen by Shameek Smith. She states that it was not nearly enough, reminding him that the donation money helped to re-open Harlem's Paradise and now that he made a weapon deal with Domingo Colon, that could expose the both of them and wind up in jail. When Stokes stated that she was not his boss, Dillard told him to fix the problem or risk losing the club and possibly going to jail.

Dillard mocks Shades

Dillard mocks Shades for closely watching her

Having paused to mock Shades, Dillard was told by Stokes to focus on the political side of things and to let him focus on his job, to which she responds is to uncomplicate her life. Stokes then said her job was to turn his water into wine. He reminded her of Mama Mabel's quote "Family First", to which she agreed. As she said she would return to Harlem's Paradise; Stokes noted she did not like being seen around him, but she claimed that it was simply because of the music and she would be on him until she got the rest of the money. Stokes gave her his word that the situation will be resolved.[6]

Questioning Stokes

Mariah in paradise

Dillard relaxes inside Harlem's Paradise

"You're wasting your gifts, my brother. This gangster life not what our ancestors fought for, not what our people died for."
"This is exactly what they died for."
―Mariah Dillard and Cottonmouth[src]

That same evening, Dillard joined Cornell Stokes inside Harlem's Paradise, listening to the music and commenting on how one of the guests had tried to seduce her by sending Candace Miller with a drink. They were interrupted when Luke Cage showed up to set a parlay for Chico Diaz, assuring that they will get the other half of the money and Diaz would leave New York City. Stokes refused, Cage gave him a picture of him with Pop and Fredo Diaz, urging him to remember his own past. Stokes agreed to the parlay and fired Cage, to which he claimed he could not be fired as he had already quit.


Dillard questions Cornell Stokes' line of work

Dillard let Stokes and Tone have a conversation concerning Diaz, with Tone wanting to go to Pop's Barber Shop and assassinate him, but Stokes refused and sent him away. Once they were alone, Dillard told Stokes that he is wasting his talents as a gangster. However, Stokes was quick to justify his actions, stating that the good life was worth it, saying that "black money" is remembered just as much as a "black martyr." Dillard asked Stokes if he was sick of being called a criminal, stating that respect is more wealthy than money. However, Stokes retorted by saying money earns respect. When she asked at what cost, he responded that she will see soon enough.[6]

Receiving the Other Half

Mariah 4

Dillard overhearing the news of Pop's murder

"You all right, cuz?"
"With what? Extortion? Well. Murder, no! I'm not good. Don't expect me to be."
"The money's still green."
Cottonmouth and Mariah Dillard[src]

Eventually, Tone came back with the other half of the cash that Chico stole. This prompted Cornell Stokes to have him meet him upstairs. Dillard decided to come, as well, to make sure the plan falls through. They met on the rooftop where they found out through Tone and Shades that they received the money by having a shootout at Pop's Barber Shop; However, that also meant that they murdered Pop. This angered Stokes and he was further annoyed when Turk Barrett, the one who gave up Diaz, came up asking for his money.

Mortified Dillard

Dillard receives the money after Tone's death

Much to Dillard's disapproval, Stokes grabbed Tone in a fit of rage over his friend's untimely death and threw him over the building, killing him instantly when he landed on a parked car. Stokes grabbed the bag of money and handed it over to Dillard. She made it known that she disapproved of the murder of Tone, however, Stokes reminded her that the money is still green, which she agreed with. She took the money and left, leaving Stokes and Shades to clean up the mess. Later, Dillard took the money back to the Crispus Attucks Complex, unaware that Luke Cage was watching her.[6]

Legal System

Dillard bench

Dillard and Cottonmouth discuss security

"This building may be your bank right now. But the Crispus Attucks, Madam C. J. Walker, Adam Clayton Powell, Shirley Chisholm complexes will be vibrant communities reflecting the change that's gonna keep Harlem black and us in the green."
―Mariah Dillard to Cottonmouth[src]

In the wake of his stash houses being raided, Cornell Stokes had Dillard's office at Crispus Attucks Complex reinforced, much to her disapproval, as she questioned if it was the best plan to keep all of his money in one building. Stokes remained confident in his decision as the Complex was perfectly protected and, although Dillard insisted that Complex should be used to used the projects, Stokes laughed and told her it had always been a criminal front, with Dillard calling Stokes an asset to her work who was often a liability.

Dillard Mabel reminder

Dillard comments on Mama Mabel's influence

As Stokes continued to mock Dillard for her denial about being involved in the criminal underworld, Dillard insisted that her work is not criminal and was for the greater good of their city which she truly cared about, as she pointed out the work Mama Mabel had done for Harlem before her death, despite having to blackmail several people. She, then, made sure that the Crispus Attucks Complex would only be a temporary bank for Stokes, but it will still help keep Harlem black. Stokes responded that she should keep focusing on the black and he will focus on bringing in the green for them.[7]

Robbery at Crispus Attucks


Dillard attempts to calm down Cottonmouth

"You can always make more money. I can't get my name back and somebody is gonna start asking questions. Step off, Cornell!"
"Shut up, Black Mariah! That's my shit to break!"
"You better shut up, or I will cut your color-struck ass."
―Mariah Dillard and Cottonmouth[src]

Later that evening, Dillard was given the news that her own office at Crispus Attucks Complex had been broken into and the money was exposed to the police. Dillard gave the news to Cornell Stokes and was met with rage. Dillard tried to calm him down, reassuring him that he could make more money, but she will be the one who has to answer all the questions. Stokes scolded her by calling her Black Mariah, which was met with her throwing a glass right at him and threatened to cut him if he ever dared to call her that name again.

Dillard demands it

Dillard demands that the job is finally done

Their argument was interrupted by Zip, who came to let Stokes know that a detective was here, much to Dillard's displeasure at the idea of the New York City Police Department being there. However, they were met up by Rafael Scarfe, who turned out to be on Stokes' payroll. Stokes confirmed that Chico Diaz has been killed, on his hands, and he knows the identity of the assailant infiltrating Stokes' stash houses: Luke Cage. Being given the address, Stokes decided to take care of Cage, himself. Dillard responded that she wants to be spared the details, as long as the job was finally done.[7]

Threatened by Cage

Mariah 9

Dillard is visited by Luke Cage

"Does the n***a have gills? Drown him. Can he burn? Can you poison him? What about a woman? You know he got one with his fine ass. You find his weakness and you squeeze."
"You soundin' a lot like Mama Mabel. Don't worry about Cage, his days are numbered. I got something for him, that's my word."
―Mariah Dillard and Cottonmouth[src]

While Dillard was giving a news interview about her campaign, talking about her own plans for the future of Harlem, she was interrupted by the arrival of Luke Cage. Once the film crew had gone, Cage mocked her segment once she was done before he informed her that once he had shut down Cottonmouth's operation, she would be his next target. Dillard asked if it was a threat, but Cage told her that it was not and left. As Cage left, the news crew went inside to get footage for her, forcing Dillard to act as though nothing had happened.

Dillard returned to Harlem's Paradise where she met up with Stokes and was furious to learn that he had shot Rafael Scarfe during a dispute. Stokes insisted it was because Scarfe had blackmailed him and promised that he would be returning the missing guns to Domingo Colon that night, although Dillard remained highly nervous about the situation. Dillard reminded Stokes that if Scarfe somehow survived the shooting, he would go straight to the New York City Police Department and expose their entire operation and have them both sent to prison.

Mariah 8

Dillard demands Stokes finally kills Luke Cage

Believing it was time for him to have a new change of career, Dillard demanded that Stokes sold the nightclub and to forget his criminal activities, noting how people got behind him during his speech at Pop's funeral. However, Stokes refused, stating that he would find a way to keep going. Dillard, then, asked about what to do with Cage, but Stokes told her he was bulletproof. Dillard, then, suggested they try drowning or burning him or to find out who he cares about and put them in harm's way as a bribe at which point Stokes compared her methods to Mama Mabel's, which Dillard did not deny.[8]

An Interview Gone Wrong

Mama Mabel Nightmares

Dillard looks down at Mama Mabel's picture

"Despite these unwarranted attacks on my character, I have always tried to make clear what I want which I can't say for you, Thembi. It's very clear what you and the rest of your media friends want. You want a story, not the news, not the truth. Just a story that you will do anything to sell."
―Mariah Dillard to Thembi Wallace[src]

Later, Dillard started drinking tea in front of a mirror, preparing for her big interview about her political campaign and hopes for the future, until she accidentally knocked over a photograph of Mama Mabel. As she looked down at the woman who had influenced her in so many ways, Dillard shouted at the picture, telling it to shut up, terrified of becoming like her through corruption. Bringing back her composure, she continued to look in the mirror and apply makeup.

Dillard vs Wallace

Dillard having a talk with Thembi Wallace

The crew finally landed inside Dillard's house, as Alex Wesley was instructed to keep her house proper from everyone else. Then, her interviewer, Thembi Wallace, came down to ask about the topics she will be discussing. When Dillard suggested about Harlem and her upcoming plans to rebuild it, Wallace stated that it was boring as that had already been discussed and she should do something fun, noting how Barack Obama had sung Al Green's song in an interview. Dillard felt insulted and mocked Wallace's suggestions, as she left to set up the interview.


Dillard being interviewed by Thembi Wallace

Wallace started by letting the viewers know that the interview was live and that they can submit questions for Dillard. Dillard was then complimented on her home, to which she stated is a part of Harlem's legacy where the campaign money would be going towards keeping it preserved. Wallace then shifted the focus on Damon Boone, but Dillard insulted him and stated that his recent comments about her voting record and campaign donations were simply not true and her career was completely legitimate. As the interview continued, Dillard was shown footage of her previous interview, which pleased her as she claimed that she did not only represent Harlem but that she was Harlem, although Wallace looked less than convinced.

However, Wallace began questioning Dillard about which side of Harlem she truly represented, the historic, hardworking and hopeful Harlem Dillard talked about, or the corrupt Harlem. Wallace noted Dillard's connection with her criminal family, after the footage was done, and showed footage of pictures of Mama Mabel with Pistol Pete and the crime scene at Crispus Attucks Complex which held vast sums of cash and had criminals suspected of working for her. Wallace then pointed out the fact that Dillard had grown up with the young Cottonmouth who inspired fear across Harlem.

Dillard Hates Interviews

Dillard demands that Wallace leave her house

Dillard claimed that Wallace had no right to show her personal family photographs, but Wallace continued her attack by asking why it had not been reported on the news that thugs guarding her office had been attacked by a hooded vigilante before the police had found millions of dollars hidden away there. Dillard initially froze at being asked such incriminating questions until she, enraged, furiously blamed Wallace for attempting to tarnish her good image. She then halted the interview and demanded Wallace and her entire television crew then get out of her home immediately.

Dillard Cottonmouth Arrest

Dillard learns of Cottonmouth's recent arrest

As the crew had begun to clean more of their equipment, Wallace got information on Cottonmouth's recent arrest by Misty Knight for the murder of Rafael Scarfe as well as police corruption and extortion. Dillard was approached by Wallace, again, who had tried questioning Dillard about it. In a panic attack from all the questions, Dillard called out for her assistant for aid and Alex Wesley had quickly run out to her side and forced the whole crew out of her house, leaving Dillard to vent and curse out her frustration as she began to fear that now their entire operation was about to fall apart around her.[8]

The Final Straw

Damon Boone's Warning

Mariah Dillard 2

Dillard is questioned by multiple reporters

"You've been trying to knock me out of my spot for six years, Damon. It didn't work then, it's not working now. Find a new hobby."
"You can't stay on top forever, Mariah. You're gonna fall, and I'll enjoy every second when you do."
―Mariah Dillard and Damon Boone[src]

The next day, Dillard invited Damon Boone to her house where they were surrounded by reporters asking for statements about what was happening with Cottonmouth's activities. Dillard assured the press that her cousin was not involved in any illegal activities, making light of the fact that not even the press seemed to know if he was a gun runner or drug dealer. When Dillard was asked if she had been questioned by the New York City Police Department, she said she was loyal to her cousin and again insisted he was innocent.

Once inside, Boone questioned how much of the allegations against Cottonmouth were true, and judged by her silence that it was all of it. Boone called Dillard tainted and then tried to convince her to resign from her position so he could take the mantle as the key councilman in Harlem, promising to continue pushing her plans forward. Dillard reminded Boone of how he had been trying to take her position for six years and he admitted he was waiting to see her fail. Dillard refused Boone's proposition and demanded that he left her home immediately.

Not long after Boone was gone, Dillard requested that Alex Wesley bring her a scotch, but before he could, Shades made his presence known in her house. When Dillard demanded to know how Shades had gotten into her home, all he said was that he needed to talk to her alone. Shades began by asking Dillard if she remembered him when he was a child growing up in Harlem, but she explained that she did not. He reminded Dillard of the influence Mama Mabel carried and how she ensured that their family name had once meant something within Harlem.

As Shades insulted her, noting Harlem's Paradise was not the symbol it once was, he pushed Dillard emotionally by telling her that she was now a washed up politician whose career was falling apart. Furious, Dillard went to slap Shades only for him to catch her arm and when she threatened him, he told her she had no power to shut him up. They discussed if Dillard enjoyed being so powerful, as he said she did not. Before he left, Shades tried to encourage her, saying when she got the nerve she would be surprised at what she would be capable of.

Mariah 7

Dillard is ordered to resign from her position

Back in her office, Dillard got a call informing her that the decision had been made that due to the actions and subsequent arrest of Cottonmouth, the council would now be asking for her resignation, effective immediately. Hearing that an official announcement would be made the very next day, Dillard told the woman that she intended to fight the decision before hanging up and throwing a drinking glass across the room. Taking a breath, Dillard then contacted Tony and asked him to bring the car around so she could now go to Harlem's Paradise in order to confront her cousin personally.[3]

Assassination of Cottonmouth


Dillard has a confrontation with Cottonmouth

"My party chairwoman called me tonight to tell me I had to step down from the council. The fundraising for my complexes dried up since you got arrested. My reputation is in the shithole!"
"Maybe Madam Councilwoman need to step off her high horse and get her hands dirty."
"We family, Cornell. Mama Mabel taught us that."
―Mariah Dillard and Cottonmouth[src]

Arriving at Harlem's Paradise, Dillard found Cottonmouth playing his keyboard alone in his office. Cottonmouth then commented on the pressure Dillard must be after in the wake of her disastrous interview with Thembi Wallace but Dillard insisted that he had to stop obsessing over Luke Cage and fix the business, but he claimed he had already gotten Cage in his pocket while Dillard complained about how his actions had now seemingly destroyed her career.

When Cottonmouth accused her of losing her way, Dillard reminded him they were still family, but he accused her of being favored by Mama Mabel because she provided for Dillard's education while Stokes was taught to be a criminal, instead of improving his music. Dillard, however, said she was only sent to a fancy bordering school to keep her away from Pistol Pete, who had been sexually abusing her. She accused him of being ungrateful for taking care of him as a child and Stokes accused her of flirting with Pete and encouraging his many advances.


Dillard knocks Cottonmouth out the window

Disgusted at such an accusation being made against her regarding her abuse, Dillard, in a rage, hit Cottonmouth hard across the head with a champagne bottle, stunning him while she slapped and pushed him, furious at being accused of wanting the sexual abuse she had suffered as a child. Enraged, Dillard then pushed the crime boss out the window of his own club where he landed near the stage, dazed from the fall and with his hands and body now cut to ribbons by the broken glass. Dillard then looked down upon her injured cousin and shouted in anger as she made her way to him, screaming that she did not want what Pistol Pete had done to her.

Still screaming that she did not want the abuse, Dillard out down to where the injured and terrified Cottonmouth was desperately attempting to crawl away and screamed that he should have known she did not want any of it. Looking down at Cottonmouth, the man who had ruined her political career and caused so many problems in her life with his criminal actions, Dillard then proceeded to beat him to death with a microphone stand. Dillard hit her cousin in the face and body until she had crushed his bones and left him as a bloody corpse on the stage.

With Cottonmouth now dead, Dillard looked down at what she had done in horror, she was then discovered by Shades, impressed by her actions. Shades commented that she had gotten the nerve like he said she would back at her home, although she insisted that she never wanted this to happen. Shades, however, told her that deep down it was what she wanted, telling her that the first kill was always the hardest one. As they talked about covering up the crime scene, they also began to plan how to frame Luke Cage for Cottonmouth's brutal murder.[3]

While Dillard considered her actions, she was joined by Shades who asked what she was thinking about. Dillard revealed that her mind was completely blank, but Shades assured her it was okay as long as they focused on their cover story. Shades told her to shower and change into the clothes Alex Wesley had brought before they decided to recruit Candace Miller to back up their story. With that now decided, Shades asked if there was anything they had missed, at which point she revealed she hit Cottonmouth with a champaign bottle which had not broken.

Having collected the bottle Cottonmouth had been hit with, Shades told her to get changed so Joel Spurlock could destroy the clothes she was currently wearing. Seeing his tone, Dillard questioned if he was speaking to her like a child because she was in shock. Shades, however, reassured her that she would get away with this murder. Dillard then left to shower, but not before she turned back and told Shades he would never be allowed to call her a bitch ever again.[9]

Framing Luke Cage

"Goddamn vigilantes who call themselves heroes, like Luke Cage, they are dangerous. They are a menace to the safety, the security, and the sanctity of our community. You know what? People have used a lot of words to describe my cousin, but one word they have never used is coward and only a coward would hide in the shadows and kill an innocent man."
―Mariah Dillard[src]

With the New York City Police Department now on the scene, Dillard was questioned by Misty Knight. They discussed what had happened, with Dillard claiming she had spoken to Cornell Stokes on the phone and when he failed to call back she had come to Harlem's Paradise where she had found his body. Dillard claimed to have found Candace Miller in the club, who backed up Dillard's story by telling Knight that Luke Cage killed Stokes.

As Dillard arrived at the 29th Precinct Police Station, she was hounded by several reporters all looking for a statement about Cottonmouth's death. When one reporter claimed Cage might be taking out the trash, Dillard responded by telling them that her cousin was a musician trying to improve his life. Dillard went on to accuse the media of turning Cage into a folk hero due to his actions at Genghis Connie's, but none of them had actually asked who he was. Faking emotion, Dillard called Cage a coward before turning and walking inside the station.

While Dillard waited for Benjamin Donovan to pull Miller out of questioning, she spoke with Alex Wesley and had him send out the footage of her speech. Knight then appeared and mockingly clapped Dillard for her performance. Sending Wesley to wait with Tony, Dillard spoke with Knight and noted that she did not have any evidence against her and insisted Cage was responsible, although Knight argued whoever killed Stokes was clearly close to him. She then decided to leave, making reference to Rafael Scarfe before speaking to Priscilla Ridley on her way out.

With Miller now free, Dillard had her driven home and sat next to her in the back seat, where she handed over an envelope filled with cash as payment for her part in framing Cage for Cottonmouth's brutal murder. Miller told Dillard that she never liked Cottonmouth and would have never have had sex with him, which is what made her even more uncomfortable as that was now on the record. When Miller insisted she was not a whore, Dillard told her she was not, but a business woman who now had the money to change her and her whole family's lives.

Once Miller had returned to her home, Dillard spoke with Shades, who had been driving the car. When Shades questioned what would happen if Miller told the police the truth, Dillard insisted she would not but claimed that if it ever happened then they would have to kill Miller and everybody who lived in her apartment. Dillard claimed this would make it look like a home invasion, which upset her as Duke Ellington and Count Basie had once lived there, and this would risk the market value. Shades listened and expressed his approval at Dillard's methods.

Returning to her home once again, Dillard placed down her belongings and sat down at her desk to continue her work in reinstating herself in the Harlem council. However, just as she prepared to begin, Dillard found herself face to face with the picture of Mama Mabel. Despite now knowing that she was a cold blooded murderer like her grandmother was, Dillard still insisted that she was not like her before she placed the picture down so she could no longer see Mabel's image reflecting her own, refusing to allow herself to become even more corrupt.[9]

Criminal Dealings

"Cornell was who he was. I want something different. I don't want to have to look over my shoulder, Domingo. Gather all the bosses, I have a proposition that will benefit us all."
―Mariah Dillard to Domingo Colon[src]

With Cornell Stokes' corpse having been moved to Joel Spurlock's mortuary, Dillard came to pay her respects to her cousin. While looking down at him, Dillard reminisced about his mother Jazmine Stokes, telling his corpse how his father Malik had wanted to be a father before he died of a drug overdoes and Jazmine left Stokes at Mama Mabel's home, as she refused to be a mother, leaving Dillard to raise Cornell as an infant.

Dillard's emotional farewell was interrupted by the arrival of Shades who assured her she had done what needed to be done. Shades told Dillard that Diamondback had arrived and was angry that Cottonmouth was dead while Luke Cage was still alive and requested her help in finding Cage as he had disappeared. Dillard was then informed that she was now the face of Cottonmouth's criminal empire and needed to do something about it, although Dillard insisted she did not want to be involved, only to be told she had to ensure a smooth transition.


Dillard and Domingo Colon discuss their future

Agreeing to Shades' advice, Dillard walked into Colon's Gym in order to strike up a deal. Dillard found the gym cleaning up after a shootout and spoke with Domingo Colon, who explained Cage was to blame for the mess before expressing his condolences for Cottonmouth's death. Speaking with Colon, Dillard was told that while he did not trust Stokes, he trusted her even less now for pretending to be on the right side of the law when she grew up on the wrong side just like so many others, claiming that it was not so easy to get away from that criminal lifestyle, which Dillard still refused to accept.

Dillard informed Colon that she needed her cousin's criminal empire to continue in New York City, when he asked if she would be running it she explained she would not but needed help from not just him, but everybody who Cottonmouth had sold guns to. Colon noted that not everyone he worked with had liked Cottonmouth, also telling her that there was something dangerous behind her eyes. Dillard focused on business though and told Colon to gather all of the criminal bosses together so she could make them an offer that could benefit them all.

Returning to her home, Dillard sadly looked in the mirror while Alex Wesley tried to get her attention. Dillard was then informed that the media were trying to reach out to her, with even Thembi Wallace requesting another interview which Dillard refused. Wesley showed footage that had leaked of Cage attacking two police officers and stealing their car. Wesley and Dillard briefly discussed seeing the man who had seemingly killed her cousin before Wesley requested the chance to assist her in using his tragedy to push her political career in Harlem further forward.[10]

Meeting Diamondback


Dillard and Shades arrive at Colon's Gym

"Word is you have a weapon that can take him down, kill Luke Cage. Vut if you do, and you go big, everyone else will come to you to help take down the rest of these super-freaks that are upsetting the natural order of things. You gotta go big pharma on this shit: you invent the disease, then you sell the cure."
―Mariah Dillard to Diamondback[src]

Dillard was joined by Shades as they returned to Colon's Gym to sort out their criminal business once and for all. Upon arriving, Shades took Dillard aside and asked if she was ready for this meeting, at which point she told him she was as ready as she would ever be. However Shades then made it clear that if the men inside that room sensed any weakness in her at all, then she would not only be done professionally and politically, but her life would be in danger too.

As she stepped into the meeting, Domingo Colon accused her of being late, only for Dillard to insist she was right on time. Dillard informed the group that she would now be making changes now Cottonmouth was dead, causing Peter Hong to insist she get to the point. Dillard told the group she was not going to be following in Cottonmouth's footsteps in order to focus on politics, and instead would be selling all of Cottonmouth's assets and connections to them, a proposition that Jacques Alef and the others found appealing if difficult to believe.

However, the meeting was then interrupted by the sudden arrival of the uninvited Diamondback who began telling the group that he was furious that they were making deals without him which could affect his income. Dillard watched in silence as, within just a few moments, Diamondback brutally murdered both Hong and Alef along with Neville Barnwell and Juan Carlos Castro due to feeling ripped off, leaving only the horrified Dillard, Shades, and Colon alive, before telling Dillard she was clearly crazy for not flinching at seeing the massacre.

Dillard told Diamondback that she was not scared if him before suggesting they become allies due to a mutual hatred of Luke Cage. Diamondback promised he will kill Cage when the time was right, at which point Dillard recommended that instead of hunting down Cage, Diamondback should be selling his Judas Bullets to the New York City Police Department and have them kill Cage for him. Diamondback agreed to the concept and decided she should be the one to take charge of the deals, using her political influence to spread the fear about Cage.[10]

Selling the Judas

To be added

War for Harlem

Revealing the Truth

"Pete was the only one that told me I was beautiful. He reminded me how smart I was. I loved him. Until he started sneaking into my room at night. I didn't want it. I never wanted it. "Family first. Always." When Mabel knew? "No abortions!" The second you were born, the Johnsons would raise you."
Mariah Dillard to Tilda Johnson[src]

To be added

Attack at Rand Enterprises

"Kiss... my... black... ass."
―Mariah Dillard[src]

To be added

Massacre at Gwen's


Dillard and Shades brutally burn Anansi alive

"Billie, it was you. That's how he knew about Piranha. That's how he knew how to get to me. And where."
"Ms. Dillard, please."
"The name is Stokes. Mariah Stokes."
―Mariah Dillard and Stephanie Miller[src]

To be added

Ghosts of the Past

"You was always smart, tough. Beautiful. Just like I molded you."
"Shut up."
"I forgive you for telling Cornell to shoot me."
"That was me, you disloyal n***a."
"Mmm-mmm. She pushed it over the top. Just like our daughter is doing now."
"You keep Tilda's name out of your filthy mouth!"
"She's more ambitious than both of us. Guess that's how it's supposed to be."
"Her uncle ain't supposed to be her daddy!"
"Walk slowly, Pete. She is clearly working some shit out."
Pistol Pete, Mariah Dillard and Mama Mabel[src]

To be added

A United Force


Dillard giving an ultimatum to all the criminals

"Plenty of customers for whatever you are offering, and increasing real estate opportunities to wash the profits."
"But you'll be in charge."
"It's my black face on the money. But it's still green."
―Mariah Dillard and Rosalie Carbone[src]

To be added


"Mariah Stokes Dillard, you are under arrest for the murder of Candace Miller, Cornell Stokes, and the massacre at Gwen's."
"I didn't pull the trigger."
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say–"
"I know my goddamn rights. Do you really think this is gonna hold? It's his word against mine. And he is a goddamn gutter gangster. A lowlife. And I am Mariah Stokes. Forever councilwoman of Harlem. Millionaire philanthropist."
Misty Knight and Mariah Dillard[src]

To be added


"Your Honor, the State of New York charges the defendant, Mariah Stokes Dillard, with the crime of murder in the first degree. Twelve counts, with victims that include her own cousin, Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes."
"Again, for the fourth time, Mr. Donovan, need I remind you, there are no cameras in this courtroom?"
"That's hard to believe, given the way District Attorney Tower is acting, Your Honor. I object to the prosecution's grandstanding during what should be a simple arraignment for a first time offender."
"I'm not grandstanding, Your Honor. Ms. Stokes Dillard's hands are drenched with blood. Besides her role in the so-called "Rum Punch Massacre," Ms. Stokes Dillard faces separate federal SEC violations for financial irregularities for her role in the Atreus Plastics merger."
Blake Tower, Benjamin Donovan and Amanda Garmon[src]

To be added

Last Will and Testament

"Harlem's Paradise is the crown jewel of Harlem. It should go to someone who loves Harlem as much as I do. You know the story of the Sirens? The beauty of their voices compelled men off course to crash against the rocks. This club will be his siren. He'll be lulled by its song, lulled by so-called greatness. The preacher's son will think he can use the roost to change things, to control it. But in the end, it will change him."
―Mariah Dillard to Benjamin Donovan[src]

To be added

Death by Poison

Cage watching Mariah die

Dillard dying painfully in Luke Cage's arms

"I've done all the saving I can do, but I will keep you company."
"I can't... It burns..."
Luke Cage and Mariah Dillard[src]

Before visiting her mother one last time in prison, Tilda Johnson had concocted a deadly poison named Beso de la Araña and spread it across her lips. When she did visit Dillard, the latter stated that she no longer sees Pistol Pete in her, she now sees herself. Stokes had said that when she got out of prison, she and Johnson could start over again, but Johnson quickly refused that offer. Before she left, Johnson gave Stokes a gentle kiss on the lips, with Dillard unaware that her own daughter poisoned her. Dillard found out too late during her final encounter with Luke Cage when she began coughing out blood.


"Now, I am a legit philanthropist. That's the American way, girl."
"You are a crook and a liar."
"I serve Harlem. And, yes, I will do whatever it takes."
―Mariah Dillard and Tilda Johnson[src]

Mariah Dillard was a woman who believed that power came through politics rather than criminality like her cousin and grandmother behaved. She wanted a better life than Mama Mabel or Cottonmouth, becoming a councilwoman instead, her hatred for her grandmother also encouraged her to not be a criminal as she believed that her family was wasting their lives. Dillard also respected the long-suffering art and history that African Americans went through to achieve equality with the whites, despising the word "n***a" and Cottonmouth's indifference to what her ancestors had fought and died to achieve. She was also supremely arrogant and self-assured in her role as a pillar of the community, believing herself vital to Harlem's well-being and putting herself on the level of notable past African Americans.

Although caring about black rights, history, politics and genuinely wanting Harlem to have a bright future, Dillard was secretly mentally unstable and willingly enforced Stokes' criminal empire to further her own goals. Even though she found Stokes' criminal activity to be a waste of time and was willfully ignorant of her cousin's actions, she would also force him to take action when necessary, fearing that if his criminality caught up with him, they would both go down. She was also not above using her admiration of black rights as a way to justify her criminal behavior and often arrogantly used expressions of "black pride" to avoid having to admit the full immoral nature of her criminal actions.

Dillard chose to sever all connections towards Mabel when she grew older, fearing it might impeach her political image but also kept several pictures of Mabel throughout her house, presumably as a reminder to herself. When angered she would lash out violently and destroy something in her environment close to her. Dillard's unstable temper is presumably due to her history of witnessing her grandmother's violent actions and the sexual abuse she suffered from her uncle growing up. This pent up trauma went as far that when teased by her cousin that she welcomed her own abuse from Pete, goes into an angry, almost-psychotic fit and violently kills Cottonmouth over this tease. Even though she is horrified over this action, the influence of Shades encourages her to embrace her criminal roots, developing a more colder and calculated nature by doing business with Harlem's crime lords like Domingo Colon, Diamondback and threatening to kill Candace Miller if she went to the police about framing Luke Cage.

Having killed Cottonmouth, her political campaign and reputation destroyed and the influence of Shades, Dillard has gone full circle from legitimate politician to a complete criminal. Accepting her criminal roots, Dillard takes over Harlem's Paradise and Cottonmouth's personal gun, signifying that she embraces Mama Mabel and Cottonmouth as her blood and is on her way to becoming an equal crime boss as her cousin and grandmother before her. Realizing she's more like her grandmother than she thought, she also seems to have abandoned her distaste for the n-word, while in police custody she uses the n-word during her interrogation held by Misty Knight and the inspector, also signifying her development from when she was introduced by scolding Cottonmouth for using that word, which she "despised".

"You lost your heart, Mariah. It was the best part of you."
Shades to Mariah Dillard[src]

The War for Harlem took a toll on Mariah's mental state, which came to a head after Bushmaster tried to kill her by burning down her house with her and Tilda in it. After this, she became completely unhinged and lost any semblance of morality whatsoever; she was willing to massacre not only Bushmaster's family and the mole Stephanie Miller but unrelated innocent people who happened to be at Gwen's, gleefully admitted her role in this massacre to her daughter, and mocked Shades as a "vegan" for being horrified at such pointless violence. Besides her brutality, her deteriorating mental state manifested as a conversation with hallucinations of her grandmother and uncle. Anansi remarked that he saw the same darkness in her that he saw in Bushmaster, and her increasing brutality ended up alienating Shades, who, realizing she had abandoned all strategic nuance and become extremely dangerous, ultimately snitched in order to bring her down. Much like Cottonmouth, Mariah's increasingly brutal behavior ultimately proved her downfall, as Tilda's horror and disgust at her mother's actions were extreme enough to drive her to matricide.


  • Expert Tactician: When Dillard killed Cottonmouth, she was able to cover what she did even with the help of Shades. She was able to accuse Luke Cage until everybody believed her and hunted down Cage. And she was also able to pay Candace Miller for covering the truth about Cottonmouth's murder. She was also able to be free from the accuse of Cottonmouth's murder so that she wasn't imprisoned. Then, after accusing Cage, Dillard pinned it on Diamondback.



"What do you need a gun for?"
"A woman always needs a gun."
Tilda Johnson and Mariah Dillard[src]


  • Mariah Dillard's Brownstone: Located in the heart of Harlem, Dillard's personal residence became where she conducted many of her private meetings before and after her turn to crime. The Brownstone, however, was destroyed when Bushmaster had set it on fire in an attempt to kill both Dillard and her daughter Tilda Johnson, only for them then to be rescued by Luke Cage while the Brownstone burned down.
  • Crispus Attucks Complex: Dillard conducted much of her early political work from this Complex, however, it was also being used by her cousin, Cottonmouth, as a front where he would stash his illegal cash. When the Complex was raided by Luke Cage, Dillard's secrets were exposed as her political career was also put in jeopardy.

Dillard listens to music at Harlem's Paradise

  • Harlem's Paradise: Following the demise of Cottonmouth, Dillard was made the legal owner of her family's club located in Harlem. She continued Cottonmouth's work with producing live music at the club while making illegal deals with Cockroach Hamilton and Hai-Qing Yang among others. However, when Bushmaster threatened to attack her at the club, Dillard had a reinforced bunker installed in the basement to protect herself. In her will, Dillard handed the club's ownership over to Luke Cage, hoping the club would corrupt his moral code.
  • Shirley Chisholm Complex: To be added


  • Ryker's Island: While awaiting her trial for her many crimes, Dillard was sent to Ryker's were she soon came into conflict with Kalinda Potter, who had been sent by Rosalie Carbone to assassinate Dillard, who was still able to defend herself. While still inside, Dillard had several meetings with her lawyer, Benjamin Donovan to arrange matters, ordering the assassinations of all those connected to her before they could betray her, while also working on her new will where she left Harlem's Paradise to Luke Cage. Dillard also arranged meetings with Shades and Tilda Johnson before being asked to meet with Cage. During her last meeting with Cage, Dillard realized that Johnson had poisoned her as she died in Cage's arms.






Appearances for Black Mariah

In chronological order:


  • In the comics, Black Mariah is the leader of the Rat Pack, a New York street gang. Her name is a reference to the classic nicknamed used for the police van in Harlem.

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