Joy Moore – the inspirational Jamaican mother of the new governor of Maryland
She is the inspiration, the unofficial advisor, and mother all rolled into one.
Meet Joy Moore, the Jamaica-born mother of the new governor of the US state of Maryland, Wes Moore, the first African-American elected to the office.She is the president and CEO of JWS Media Consulting, and worked for many years with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore. Early in her career, she worked in radio and TV, where she won a Peabody Award. Fittingly the title of her new book is The Power of Presence: Be A Voice in Your Child’s Ear Even When You’re Not With Them.Her son, she said, knows that he can rely on her for support in whatever path he chooses, or wherever he might be. The governor, has served as a paratrooper and captain in the US Army in Afghanistan, and is a successful businessman and author.
But to fully understand Joy Thomas Moore one needs to go back to her early life.
Journalist, author, and artist, Moore was born in the parish of Trelawny. Her mother was a teacher and her father, a minister of religion. When she was just three years old, her parents moved the family to The Bronx in New York City.
She attended New York public schools and was accepted into LaGuardia School of Music and Art. From there she went on to the American University in Washington DC.
When Joy started college at American University in 1968, the country was in the midst of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. She struggled to find the balance between the America that helped her family to find better opportunities and the America that made them feel like second-class citizens.
She found comfort in the Organisation of African and African-American students union at the American University, helping to organise and mobilise black students to join the conversations relating to injustice.
Another member of the group, Bill, was two years older than Joy and whom she would marry two years later.
But her dream of a wonderful life with Bill soon became a nightmare. She began to see that the qualities he had that had excited her in the early days were not the best qualities for a husband.
His dabbling in drugs turned into a full-blown addiction, and Joy desperately wanted to help him get through it. She put her energy into making a life that would satisfy him, including having a child. But his addictions to drugs and alcohol only got worse. He became physically, emotionally, and mentally abusive.
Following her divorce, she met Westley Moore, a man with big dreams, who from a young age, dreamed of working in television as an influential reporter. After he graduated from Bard College in 1971, he travelled the country working as a reporter. Eventually, he made his way back home to Maryland and started hosting a public affairs show. He sought the services of a writing assistant and hired a young woman, Joy, who would become his wife.
After Westley died in 1982, Joy moved her family back to New York and worked with Essence television as a writer,raising her three children as a single mother. The now governor was only three years old. She told The Gleaner that she still maintains ties to Jamaica although she does not visit the island as often as she would like.
“The kids visit Jamaica more often than I do. It is their place of solace. In fact, after winning the election for governor, Wes went to Jamaica to relax,” she said.
Moore said she fully appreciates her son’s life journey and election as governor.“I am extremely proud of him. When he won the election, I was thinking about his father and how proud of him he would have been,” Joy said.
“He could have been a leader in any profession, whether military or private sector, but he wanted to serve people and I stood by his decision to run for elected office. I did not try to influence his decision, but I was, and am always there for him and the other kids in whatever they do,” she said.
Moore believes that her son’s time working with Robin Hood, a national anti-poverty group convinced him towards politics where he would have the greatest impact. “Robin Hood filled a critical need during the COVID-19 pandemic under Moore’s leadership, distributing more than $65 million to provide cash assistance, meals, housing, healthcare, and other urgent needs to those impacted by COVID, as well as granting another $140 million for an array of programs and initiatives developed to directly address the systemic underpinnings of poverty in New York City,” the company’s website noted of Moore’s work and impact. He stepped down in May after serving for four years as the foundation’s CEO.
She believes that his recognition of the decisions she made raising her children as a single mother might also have influenced his path. She believes too that one has to have faith and embrace the path chosen, and not be afraid to fail. She remains very close to her three children, two daughters and her son, Wes, and other family members offering whatever assistance they might need of her.