Growing up in Englewood can either make you or break you.
“For me, it made me. For many of my friends, it broke them, says Lamar.” Simms has a special resilience about him. Though he has not had many things easily handed to him in life, he always knew he was set apart for something special. “As a kid, I loved basketball and spent a lot of my time practicing. That kept me busy and out of trouble. Though my neighborhood was rough with drugs and gangs around, there was also a lot of love and belonging there.”
As one of 4 boys, Lamar was always a leader in his family. He attended church regularly and was motivated to grow in his faith from a young age. He worked odd jobs as soon as he was old enough and knew that strong work ethic would be the way to succeed. However, as he became a teenager, his struggle for identity and self-worth began to wane. He wasn’t able to continue playing basketball, a source of identity for him and struggled to stay in school. “The messages all around me in my community were telling me I didn’t matter. There were limited choices available to me.”
He met his wife, Sade, at the end of his senior year and they began a relationship when she was 4 months pregnant. Even though the baby was not his biologically, the thought of starting his own family gave Lamar a great sense of purpose and resolve. He got a job that paid well and they went on to have a daughter. However, God continued to call Lamar to something deeper. He joined Legacy church where for the first time he was able to be mentored by Christian men. He and Sade got married and he began performing poetry as well as preaching. His faith continued to grow and he became more passionate about leading his house church fellowship as well as performing poetry at different venues.
His path crossed with Sunshine staff at one of the poetry events for youth. Lamar’s experience in the community and passion for youth were exactly what Sunshine was needing. “I can hardly believe that I get paid to do what I’m so passionate about. High school students desperately need mentors and I love being able to pour into their lives. My main message to them is this: No matter what, God is there. You are worth dying for.” Lamar believes that so many messages today are telling black youth that their lives do not matter. “It’s heart-breaking to see the effects of what a lack of self-worth will do to these young people. They are willing to give up their bodies and lives because they don’t believe they are worth it. But they are.”