A recent street co-naming took place on Newbold Avenue near the Cross Bronx Service Road to commemorate the life and deeds of a cancer activist.
The unveiling of Jahi Williams-Simmons Way took place on Saturday, August 31, in honor of an organization founder and family man who passed away exactly one year earlier.
Jahi Williams-Simmons was a recreational therapist at Queens Children’s Psychiatric Center from 1975 until 2005 when his wife, Sylvia, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
When Jahi and Sylvia were unable to find the right program to fit her needs for recovery and treatment, they took it upon themselves. They started their own non-profit – Survival Instinct – The Network Inc. in 2006. The group promotes cancer awareness, early detection, prevention and healthy living.
“If I needed it, they needed it,” said Sylvia Williams-Simmons, referring to those diagnosed who needed to be helped and cared for. “This organization was started in the wake of my fight towards recovery, but its purpose was to help everybody who was in my position.”
Jahi and Sylvia continued to devote their money and time to the organization even after she recovered, and expanded the group’s focus from just cancer to all diseases.
Since then, they have launched other programs such as Sylvia Program, A Leader I Am and Cancer Health Awareness Television, providing cancer support, health awareness, surviving caregiver groups, charities and walks. These programs also include free transportation to patients in the Bronx who needed to commute to appointments along with other financial breaks.
Even when Jahi was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2010, he and Sylvia still continued to devote their efforts to those diagnosed until Jahi passed away in August 2013.
Just over one year later, Jahi Williams-Simmons Way now shares a street pole with Newbold Avenue to honor him, his family and all they have done for the community of the Bronx and beyond.
“When Community Board 9 passed the bill and the street co-naming was revealed, I had no idea how big of an impact that we had made,” said Sylvia.
Even though Sylvia, co-founder of many organizations, who played a major role in getting these organizations off the ground, modestly dismissed all praise and gave all the credit to her late husband.
“My husband’s name is an icon,” Sylvia said. “When patients click his name on the Internet, they will see a whole new world – his organizations, those he helped and those who helped him.”
Sylvia can now celebrate her husband’s life and his achievements every time she looks up at the street sign that reads his name. This street co-naming is a big deal, but to Sylvia it’s not as important as providing help those who are diagnosed.
“The street co-naming of Jahi Williams-Simmons Way is a big accomplishment for my family and I, but the real accomplishment is helping those in need,” she said. “This was our ministry, this was our purpose.”
Sylvia is currently in the process of writing a new book titled “Hope”, which will relate her and Jahi’s life experiences.