WNBA legend and social activist Maya Moore Irons and her husband Jonathan Irons, in the soon-to-be-released memoir, “Love & Justice,” a riveting tale of the fight for social justice fueled by the power and purpose of faith, all wrapped into an inspirational love story.
The killing of George Floyd in 2020 became a catalyst for many athletes to delve deep into the fight for social justice.
But Maya Moore?
She was a social justice activist well before folks took to the streets in protest to the mistreatment of Blacks by law enforcement officials. Her efforts as a social justice warrior were there before the various lanes of social justice engagement/propaganda became popular hashtags on social media.
Moore’s fight for social justice evolved into more than just something she did in her spare time.
It became a full-time passion—a passion that led her to support, encourage and seek justice for a then-incarcerated Jonathan Irons.
In 1998 and at the age of 16, Irons was given a 50-year sentence for assault and burglary, a case that had plenty of holes and inconsistencies in it which heavily factored in the charges being vacated—with the help of Moore and many, many others—by Missouri Judge Daniel Green in 2020.
“It wasn’t easy,” Moore said of the many decisions that collectively brought her to where she is now. “It was hard. It was a journey that I’m really happy that I did because I think it led to me being more healthy and more present for the things I needed to be present for, that included Jonathan’s fight for freedom.”
In their soon-to-be released memoir, Love & Justice: A Story of Triumph on Two Different Courts, launching January 17, 2023, Moore and Irons shed light on the process and power behind their purposeful work in the world of social justice, the various challenges faced along the way and the unflappable faith and love that brought them together with this book as a roadmap of sorts to aid and assist others.
“All the pain and difficulties and struggles that I experienced and shared with the world, it’s helping people ... by encouraging them,” he said. “My heart is so blessed by that. I’m thankful and humbled by that.”
In an exclusive interview with EBONY, Moore and Irons discuss their journey, social justice and the role that family, faith and “seasonality” played in them being where they are today.
EBONY: Maya, you were introduced to Jonathan through your godparents for whom you have some great stories about, in the book. What were your first impressions of Jonathan?
MAYA MOORE IRONS: He seemed to be a remarkable person. But to spend time ... to see the energy and motivation he had to put the truth out there and try to get himself home, I was really inspired by it and encouraged by it, but also feeling compassion for him. This is an awful situation and I want to do what I can to help.
Jonathan, in the book, you talk about the importance of your faith in being where you are today. What would you say were some of the keys to maintaining that faith through those trying times while in jail?
JONATHAN IRONS: There came a point where I was at my wit’s end and God sent a breath of fresh air, started sending people to me. Love was my anchor through all that. It pulled me through and kept me stationary when the storm came. Storms came one after another. It seemed like we were going into a storm, and in one on the way out with very few moments of peace. Love brought me through.
Maya, Love & Justice delves into the decision you made to leave the WNBA at a time when, playing-wise, you were pretty close to being at your peak. How tough of a decision was it for you to walk away from the game you loved so much?
MMI: There was a combination of uncertainty, of not knowing what my future is going to look like. But also, I had clarity on this is the direction I need to move in. And trying to do my best to make sure I’m engaging in the relationships in my life in an authentic, loving way. That’s how I try to, that’s the lens that I navigate life through. I’ve always been mindful of my relationships. How healthy are they? Whether it’s a great teammate, co-worker, great daughter, neighbor, friend, a great future wife as well as my relationship with God and myself. It’s not a simple journey. It was hard.
What did it mean to you, Jonathan, to have someone like Maya who not only believed in you with her words, but also with her actions?
JI: “The strongest way I can describe how I felt was like being in a desert. All around you, is hot sand. And then there’s a small island around you, with water, food, peace ... that’s what that did for me. The only way to describe prison is hell on earth. It is a desert land. I had come to terms that I may never go home. But I knew she was out there, waiting and pushing for me and encouraging me to keep going. She helped me make it to the finish line; every day, it was a race. She helped me run that marathon.
Maya, you had a line in the book that I wanted you to elaborate on for our readers. You wrote, “We discover our true identity in the desert seasons of our lives.” You wrote about seasons in other spots in the book as well. Can you elaborate on the significance of seasons in your life?
MMI: It's one of the most helpful pieces of advice I ever received—of never losing sight of the seasonality of life. Sometimes if we have expectations our life is supposed to look a certain way based off of the season that we’re in, we’re going to constantly be disappointed. Life is seasonal. There’s a different time for different emphasis and different focuses, different challenges and different enjoyments. You can focus on one season at a time, but you can prepare for the next season, too. Part of that seasonality is accepting that there are desert seasons. That can be excruciating. But that can also be some of the most transformative, clarifying seasons where everything is stripped away. You get to see what’s real, what’s true.
** The interview has been edited for length and clarity. **