SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – The death of George Floyd at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer has caught the attention of the entire world.
“It took a pandemic, it took the world to stop moving to see that this kinda what we been kinda getting on for a long time,” said Miller.
All across the country and even across the world, there’s a call for change. Here in Syracuse, protests have continued for more than two weeks and Miller has attended a few.
“They’ve been incredibly powerful. I could feel the love and I could feel the desire for change,” said Miller.
The former Syracuse lacrosse star has always been aware of what it meant to be black in America thanks to both of his parents, Jeffrey and Delbra. Both of them were born in the 1950’s and made sure Jovan knew his history.
“There’s all these stories that I been told and they were all true. But when I went to school and I got a text book I said that’s nowhere in here,” said Jovan.
So that gave Jovan an idea. He currently is an English teacher down in Charlotte at Phoenix Montessori Academy but he has switched topics the last two weeks. Using his Instagram page, @jovination23, equipped with a marker and a white board he’s teaching what he originally called Activism 101 and is now Laxtivism 101.
“Feedback has been awesome,” said Miller. “I just want to keep as many going as humanly possible, because a lot of people are listening.”
“Being able to reach so many people and them being receptive is a beautiful thing especially for any teacher out there.”
But these videos also have an additional significance to Jovan. His father Jeffrey was in the Syracuse City School district for 30 years. He founded a “Man Up Program” that targets the upbuilding of young men and entrepreneurship. He passed away from brain cancer on May 20, 2020. Jovan says he got the idea in part from his father’s leadership and opens every video saying, “it’s Jeffrey’s son”
“I think he handed me the baton,” said Jovan. “Watching how he was structured in doing so it definitely helped me with some of the ideas I have yet to do, but would love to do. “
“But I have to build day by day. He was able to do that over his tenure in education, obviously I’m not at 30 years, but I’m getting there.”
Jovan’s late father would give him advice that he could take with him throughout his life.
“You can’t change the big world but try to help change the world that you know and, in my case, lacrosse is my world,” said Miller.
From his time on the field and on the sidelines coaching, Miller has been to make an impact.
“I loved playing lacrosse, I loved coaching it even more,” said Miller.
Jovan of course starred for Syracuse, played in the Major League Lacrosse league and even headed to England to play the sport as well. But it all started for him in Syracuse playing at CBA.
“The first lacrosse game I ever watched was Syracuse,” said Miller. “The only final four I went to as a fan before I started playing professionally was Syracuse. Syracuse won the National Championship in 2005 I went to that Final Four. I got to watch them beat (John) Hopkins and beat Navy in the National Championship game. And then to be on the field four or five years later that was…this is like serious living in a dream.”
Miller won two national titles with the Orange in 2008 and 2009. He then finished up his career being named a 2010 third team All-American and then named a 2011 All-American second teamer. Career achievements he never expected.
“Being an All-American and being named the second black all American in school history behind Jim Brown that’s elite company. That’s amazing. I’ve never taken that likely,” said Miller.
“Overall, like I said I still feel like I am living the dream just based on how my career turned out.”
But he could always tell he was playing a predominately white sport.
“I felt like we were as black players I felt like we were just more captivating because we were black,” said Miller. “You have to be good; I’m not boasting about it. But you have to be pretty good to play at a place like Syracuse.”
In 2019, according to NCAA.org, throughout Division I men’s lacrosse 3,345 athletes played lacrosse. Of those players, 2,730 were white, 503 are listed as non-white and 112 are black. That comes out to only 3.3% of players were black. In the women’s game, of the 3,626 players; 3,081 were white; 446 were non- white; and just 99 were black. That is just 2.7% of players were black.
“It starts with feeling welcome. You can’t really go forward if you don’t feel comfortable being out there,” said Miller. “If they don’t feel like they’re protected you know what I’m saying. Then you’re going to end up swaying a lot of people away from the sport all together and I think that’s what happened a lot.”
While Jovan ultimately enjoyed his time at Syracuse, he does wish he started then what he is doing now with his teammates. Conversations.
“I think we weren’t ready to have those conversations at 20-21 years old,” said Miller.
“So, there were conversations that maybe could have been had that we may not have had. Maybe we could have had a very healthy dialogue but we missed those boats but we’re talking through those things now so it’s kinda a beautiful thing.”
But those conversations aren’t just happening with his teammates, but legends of the game of lacrosse and fans.
“I’ve just been very happy that everyone has been reaching out to me. They’ve been open-minded, their hearts have been open so they’ve been able to receive the message. The ability of them to be able to receive that message has just been tremendous and as a result has it been able to help me reach more hearts and reach more minds and put out some information you otherwise would never know,” said Miller.
He has now started a YouTube page for his videos, you can view that page here.