By Damion Smalls
Set to challenge Republican Samuel Rivers, Jr. for the SC House District 15 seat in November, JA Moore has hit the ground running to get his message across. The incumbent Rivers has held the position since 2012, serving over 35,000 residents in a district that includes areas in both Berkeley and Charleston Counties. Running for political office for the first time does not have Moore intimidated, however. Instead, he has battened down the hatches to stake his claim as a legitimate contender in the Dist. 15 race.
There are many other ventures that Moore could focus on rather than running for political office. He has made a name for himself locally as a businessman, professional chef, mentor and community volunteer. His parents were both involved in the Civil Rights movement and the apple did not fall far from the tree. Certain events in his life led to this point, Moore says. His friendship with the late Sen. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the Walter Scott shooting, family ties, dreams of being a catalyst, voter registration involvement and more personal revelations all pointed Moore towards the concept of being a representative of the people.
“Our community has fought too hard not to demand more. Our dedicated teachers deserve competitive wages and we need improvements to our roads and infrastructure,” Moore contends. “Affordable housing and job training for the people in Charleston and Berkeley Counties have to become top priorities. So trust me to walk with you.”
Members of March For Our Lives visited the Lowcountry July 31 as part of their nationwide Road To Change Bus Tour. The student-led group held a community town hall at the Sottile Theatre in downtown Charleston concerning gun control and voter registration, along with members of Lowcountry Students for Political Action. Moore held a press conference with the youthful voices, standing tall with them as they provided heartfelt testimonies at the town hall.
Several March For Our Lives leaders such as David Hogg and Emma González represented the Parkland, Florida school Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. They are survivors of the February 14 mass shooting on the campus which took the lives of seventeen students and staff members while injuring over a dozen more. As the brother of 2015 Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting victim Myra Thompson, Moore relates to their cause with experience and sincerity. “How to engage with younger people is to listen to them,” Moore puts simply.
Moore describes the young leaders as smart, encouraging and motivated. “These kids are determined to make changes happen. I think it sparked obviously with gun legislation, but from my conversations with them, they’re just like all of us – where tragedy hit and they wanted to do something about it.” He says that they showed him how important it is to keep fighting and walked away impressed with the broadening of their cause, which has made them better politically informed citizens.
The NRA-backed Samuel Rivers, Jr. poses quite the opposition to the message of March For Our Lives and JA Moore. “We have to vigilant, we have to be strong, we have to be willing to fight. We’ve already made the ultimate sacrifice: with loss of life,” says Moore. A Black man in his early 30s, JA has an enthusiastic demeanor about him that rubs off on the people he reaches. “It was a matter of ‘if not now, when?’ for me,” Moore states. “I have the dedication, the drive, the ideas and now, the following to make winning on November 6 a reality. I love my people and I have been drawn to lead while making the district, and my family, proud.”
Moore credits his wife, Victoria Rae Moore, with guiding him with strength in the aftermath of the loss of his sister three years ago. The couple are each other’s biggest fans, reciprocating unconditional support and admiration to rewarding levels. “Victoria’s wonderful,” Moore gushes. “With her love in my life, I feel blessed. She’s so important to me in so many ways.” Victoria is a savvy woman of many capabilities; she established her own PR firm, created The Chronicle’s ‘Marriage, Dating and Self-Love’ column, hosted the Social Media All Day Conference live stream in July and wrote the foreword to the Cocktail Bandits’ recently released book, ‘Holy Spirits! Charleston Culture Through Cocktails’.
Moore plans to give the public numerous opportunities “to walk with” him in the coming weeks. Among them, he will host a barbershop talk at Phlayva Cuts (1480 Rivers Avenue, North Charleston) from 5pm to 7pm August 10. Food and drinks will be provided at the “happy hour” session as Moore hopes to generate a dialogue and address issues that have sparked conversations locally, such as enhancing public transit options and economic opportunities for the underserved.
August 11, he will part of a Back to School Backpack Giveaway at Community’s Hope Impact Center (212 Cooper Street, Moncks Corner). Taking place from noon to 4pm, patrons can expect free food and and school supplies on hand. For more information, contact [email protected]
Additionally, Moore will host a Teachers’ Appreciation Day August 18 at Brazilian Buffet Bakery (1258 Red Bank, Goose Creek), a school supply donation event where the candidate looks to receive the concerns of local educators. Moore draws inspiration from the unsung and the voiceless. His feelings towards education professionals are a microcosm of his campaign’s message. “I’ve been around teachers all of my life,” Moore discloses. “To talk to teachers and hear how much of their personal money that they put up to try to provide resources for students and the personal time they dedicate – that’s why I’m doing this. It isn’t about me; there’s so many people out there that do so much that oftentimes get overlooked. They perform their jobs to their best abilities to little fanfare. I will do what is needed to support them.”