joy moore.

baltimore, maryland.  |  grandmother. mother. feminist.

influential communications expert.

From print to radio to television to philanthropy, Joy Moore’s career path has been fluid, as she successfully moved from one platform to the next. An impressive feat for a professional female beginning her career in the 1960s. However, when you first meet this woman, it becomes clear that her genuine desire to help others is what really makes an impression. And after having a long conversation with her, you walk away feeling inspired that people like her roam the planet sharing their wisdom—a wisdom that comes from living a long, purposeful life.

I first heard about Joy Moore when I read the book entitled, The Other Wes Moore. The author shares the story of his mother’s struggle to raise her three children after her husband’s sudden death. Shortly after reading the book, I met her son, clearly the product of strong parenting. As time passed, I moved to the East Coast, started this blog, met new people, and then something special happened. I had recurring conversations with numerous people from different circles, and all of them mentioned the name Joy Moore. Fast forward two years, as I am having lunch with a friend in Miami and I mention that I am growing the j. jane project. Her immediate response, “Well you have to interview Joy Moore!” It’s that moment when you begin to understand that the world is, in fact, very small.

There is a lot to admire about Joy Moore. She is incredibly intelligent, has strong interpersonal skills, an impressive career path, and a heart of service. But as a new mother, I look at her and I mostly admire her parenting skills. It seems that smart parenting plays a large part in the beauty that surrounds us all. A wise woman said, “Kids need to think that you care, before they care what you think — they need leadership.”  Joy Moore spoke those words.

How did you choose your career and was it a conscious decision?

My career found me. The summer after my high school graduation, my dad was working at what some call “the God Building” – 475 Riverside Drive – and I got a job at the National Council of Churches. The year was 1968 and there was a lot happening surrounding the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. There was a network of ministers around the country that would report the prior evening’s activities in their cities: Detroit, Chicago, New York, etc. My job was to consolidate the reports and create a collective report in an effort to share and educate the rest of the NCC Network.

That was an eye-opening and incredibly inspirational experience. I was impressed by the sincerity of the work being done to foster equality and fairness. It resonated with me. I was responsible for important communications and I was fortunate to experience the civil rights movement from the vantage point of communicating about it. As you can imagine, not every significant event made the daily news back then. I quickly learned that there were many facets of a story and it was important to look deeper into every story.

While I had a background in music, once I started college it began clear that I should move into the field of communication. My passion was to get the word out and tell the stories that needed to be told. I studied urban communications—which included studies in economics, education and sociology—in an effort to get the various nuances of what was going on in urban America. It became very important to me to make sure the news was not reported in a one-dimensional way.

What did you do after college?

After I earned my master’s degree at American University, I started working at a radio station in Washington, D.C., WMAL, and that is where I met my future husband. He was a reporter and I was a news assistant. He was quickly promoted to director of public affairs and he needed a writer. So I worked for him. We worked a lot of hours and really got to know one another. We became very close. When he left that position for a job in New York, I then became the director of public affairs. I moved into the world of radio documentaries, giving me the opportunity to write and produce, which I have done in all of my jobs since, regardless of the medium.

A decade later, after my husband tragically and suddenly passed away, my three kids and I moved back to New York to live with my parents. At that point, I learned about a position opening up at Essence. The magazine was going to launch a television show. I was hesitant to interview for the position because I had never worked in television before. But I did it anyway. I was honest about my experience but I got the job anyway.

Did you ever have a doubt about your path?

I did have doubts as I moved from one platform to the next, from print to radio to television. I even had doubts as I moved into philanthropy. But I knew I had to look fear directly in the eye and move past it. I was living with my parents and that was a tremendous help. It helped reduce the self-doubt and concerns about child care.

It is important to remember that you will never learn unless you try. I was never afraid of trying. That attitude sustained me after my husband passed. I would have never imagined that at 32-years-old I would be a widow with three children. I knew that I could not roll up in a ball and wallow in my despair. I had to be strong for my children and I had to provide for them. Most importantly, I knew I had to set an example. I was fortunate that I had a deep relationship with my husband. I felt like I was not walking the path alone. I knew him so well. It may sound crazy, but when I felt stuck or needed to make a decision about our kids, I would talk to him. I would say: What would you do, Wes? And I felt like he would help me come up with an answer. He would guide me. I think it was because we knew one another so well; I knew how he would handle any situation. I found comfort in that.

Was it love at first sight?

Well, I sort of doubt that notion. Like at first sight is possible. I think you have to like someone before you can love them. And I think it is important for women to take the time to get to know the people they fall in love with. We sometimes fail to acknowledge the red flags that are right before our eyes. Women tend to accept unacceptable behavior – and we don’t have to do that. We don’t have to live with temper. We don’t have to live with excessive drinking. We don’t have to live with abuse. Women need to think about the household first. Drinking, disrespect, tempers—they will break a household. We also need to think about whom we expose our children to on a regular basis. Whoever you let into your life will serve as a role model for your children. Women need to choose wisely.

I took the time to get to know my husband, Wes. I liked him as a human being first … and I was blessed to have him for what little time I did.

What is your best parenting advice?

Ask for help. And choose that help wisely. A lot of single moms think they can do it alone and they cannot. The phrase is overused but it really does take a village. Let go of pride and ask for help. And if you’re married, choose a strong spouse because God forbid, if anything happens to one parent, the family can carry on.

Professionally speaking, what do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Professionally, I am probably most proud of a documentary that I worked on regarding child sexual abuse; it won a Peabody Award. It came out in the early 70s and at the time, no one was talking about this type of abuse. I started hearing about it from police dispatchers and found it terribly upsetting. I was seeing a pattern of abuse all over Maryland, Virginia, and D.C., so I went to our news director regarding an idea for a documentary. He was at first hesitant, due to the nature of the subject matter,  but he eventually said that we could move forward. I worked with a reporter on the project and we worked hard on every interview and during the production process. I remember the night it aired. As I drove home, I was worried about what everyone would think. What would the feedback be? Would I tank the reputation of the number one station in the city? After all, we were highlighting adults having sex with children. What would the response be?

The following morning, I went to work and was told that the switchboards lit up after the broadcast. People were calling in and crying with appreciation. The response was unreal. It was a bigger story than I even knew. I recall one woman we featured. At the point that I met her she had gone through extensive therapy. Her father sexually abused her for years. She was the person who people related with the most. I asked her, “Did you ever think of telling someone?” And she just looked at me, and replied, “What could I have said, that my own father was touching me?” That response really resonated with a lot of people. The series generated a lot of discussions and increased reporting on the part of children who had or were being abused. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least.

But in reality, my greatest accomplishment has been as a mom. I have three wonderful children who are not only accomplished in their own right, but most important they are kind and thoughtful and care about each other, their families and the world around them. I can’t ask for more than that.

Who are your clients and why do you choose to work with them?

I work primarily with foundations and non-profits, to assist them in delivering their key messages using various forms of media. For example, I worked with The Annie E. Casey Foundation for 15 years full time, and it is now my client. I help them and others use media to make an impact, to get results. I chose this line of work because I still passionately believe in the power of media. Print, radio, TV, film, online, the specific tool doesn’t matter – I use media to advance the work that matters.

Will you ever retire?

Technically, I am retired. But I still work. I guess I can’t really imagine not working. I take my cues from a brilliant educator that I admire very much, Johnnetta Coles. She once said that we don’t have to retire, we just rewire. I liked that. So I am rewiring. There is still a lot of work to be done.

If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?

There is so much work that needs to be done. But if I had to pick one thing, I think it would be to bring some civility to the world. If we fixed this issue, most other things would fall into place. The world has lost all sense of civility. It is evident in the mountains of Afghanistan and on Capitol Hill. It is all over the news. When someone has to use coded racial statements to win an election, and someone else purposely kills 150 people using an aircraft, something is dreadfully wrong. And no matter what your political affiliation is, no one should have to endure the disrespect that President Obama has had to deal with. This man is the President of the United States of America! So yes, if I could wave a magic wand, I would wave civility upon human kind. We’d have a different world and definitely a better nation.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Don’t sweat the small stuff—most of it doesn’t matter. You may not have a date on Saturday night and you may not be the most intelligent, or the most beautiful, or the most popular … but so what? Making a contribution to humankind is what really matters at the end of the day.

What is your greatest lesson learned?

We all have problems and concerns that we have to cope with during the course of a lifetime, but it is important to face them clear-eyed and be the best you, you can be. I always told my kids that all you can do is the best you can do. Beyond that is out of your control. The key is really being confident that you are taking care of yourself, physically and emotionally, have prepared as best you can, whether it is working on a project or production, or getting ready for a speech, or preparing for a conference. One of my daughters loves quotes by the great basketball coach John Wooden. One of her favorites is, “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” I guess Coach Wooden and I would have gotten along famously.

What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?

I believe that it is important to live a purposeful life. We all have the potential to be our best selves and it is important to do so. Potential is universal but opportunities are not. My goal is to maximize opportunities for everyone. For me, living a purposeful life is living a graceful life.


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