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Published February 12, 2021
When George Floyd, a Black man, was killed during an arrest by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, University of Wyoming student-athlete Jahmari Moore knew he needed to take action among his UW football teammates.
Moore, a Cowboys special teams player, recruited in 2015 from Oak Park, Ill., sought ways to frame the tragedy in a larger context. He engaged his coaches and his teammates, and asked hard questions. He sought allies on UW’s campus and in the Laramie community.
As the citizens of Laramie began a series of marches in support of Black Lives Matter and other social justice organizations, Moore helped make sure UW’s athletes and coaches were involved -- and visible. As the largest community of students of color at UW, the public participation of student-athletes in the marches provided the events with real resonance and meaning, says UW visual and literary arts Professor Alyson Hagy, who nominated Moore for the award. She was the faculty athletics representative when she first met him as a redshirt sophomore.
Those actions are just part of Moore’s contributions to make the campus more diverse, which earned the secondary education/political science major the Willena Stanford Commitment to Diversity Award. The award is presented annually during UW’s Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue (MLK DOD).
This award was established in 2006 to recognize students who, through their actions, have demonstrated a commitment to enhance and support diversity and equal educational opportunities for all students at UW. The award was created in honor of Stanford, a former member of the MLK DOD committee and a longtime member of the UW faculty who had a strong commitment to the education of all students and made significant contributions to diversity at the university.
“He impressed me then as an unusually thoughtful, even wise, young man. That impression has only deepened over the years,” Hagy says. “Jahmari’s not a star on the football team; he has, however, been a leader from the start. His peers respect him and seek him out for advice.”
Even though he did not receive a ton of attention on the football field, his role on the team was just as important because there were many players who were like him, Moore says.
“I would help guide them through football and life in Laramie,” he adds. “I wanted to show them what being a good teammate looks like.”
Moore says he decided to come to Laramie because it was different from where he grew up, and felt he could grow as a “well-rounded individual” if he moved far away from the Chicago area.
“This would allow me to develop a certain level of independence, while also embracing a new way of living. It was one of the most challenging things I had to overcome because when I first arrived in Laramie, it was uncomfortable and unfamiliar,” he says. “I knew no one and was unfamiliar with the change in environment. But, over time, the relationships I developed with friends, teammates, coaches, trainers, managers, academic support, compliance in Athletics and others who have been able to support me throughout truly helped Laramie become a new home for me.”
Some of the initiatives on campus on which Moore has made an impact are:
-- The “Many Stories Matter” initiative, an athlete-only forum for the nonjudgmental discussion of difficult topics.
-- He organized a social media campaign for UW athletes.
-- He worked to get student-athletes, administrators and coaches in the room with the Laramie Police Department, Albany County Sheriff’s Office and UW Police Department for frank discussions.
-- This spring, Moore will participate in a Mountain West Conference webinar on social justice and, in January, he spoke at the UW Board of Trustees meeting about what it means to engage in social justice actions as a student-athlete during his UW career.
This semester, Moore began his student teaching at Laramie High School, helping lead courses in the history of the Holocaust, modern American studies and 21st century (World War II) history.
Moore learned about the Stanford award when he had a class with a past recipient.
“After learning more about the award, I can honestly say it brings me joy to know that the things that we are doing aren’t going unnoticed,” he says. “This award will continue to bring attention to all of the voices that are unheard and misrepresented. I am blessed and honored to be recognized as a winner of this award, but this is for everyone who continues to stay committed to diversity and change at UW.”
After graduation, Moore would like to become a full-time teacher, receive his master’s degree in counseling, publish poetry and self-improvement books, and perhaps coach on the high school and collegiate levels.
Two other UW students were nominated for the Willena Stanford Commitment to Diversity Award: Stephanie Amaya, from Bell Gardens, Calif.; and Laura Perez-Garcia, from Jackson.