Despite the current rhetoric that permeates through our country, we know that African Americans have strong traditional bonds with everything from the power of education to the steadfast loyalty of family. This love of knowledge, penchant for discovery and allegiance for one’s own are woven within the fibers that connect Dr. Dan and Traci Sims. It can not only be found within their love for one another, but it is the foundation for their love for their children.
Their story begins in Atlanta, Ga., where Dan was born and raised and where Traci first visited as a high school student from her native Daphne, Alabama. Falling in love with the feeling of seeing professional African Americans where ever she went, Traci knew early on Atlanta was where she wanted to be. Dan, feeling comfortable at home, pursued a degree in math after receiving a full scholarship to Georgia Tech. Although he had earned a free ride through college, he was compelled to see what life was like out of state. He began his studies at Florida A&M University, majored in math and set his sights on teaching.
“I eventually had to leave FAMU because my mom lost her job and we couldn’t afford out of state fees,” explains Dan. “I had to sit out of school. I was in a depressed state. One day, God hit me upside the head and said, ‘Wake up!’
The wake-up call sent him back to Tri-Cities High School, where he attended as a teen. Dan started out volunteering with the fleeting thought that maybe one day, he could work his way up to being the principal. In 2010, his wish came true. “That time frame planted the seed of falling in love with teaching kids and being an educator,” says Dan. “Since 1992, I’ve been a volunteer, a teacher and an administrator at Tri-Cities—I haven’t missed a beat!”
As an Early Learning Program Specialist for Atlanta Public Schools, Traci educates parents on how learning starts in the womb. “The idea is to push education early on, making the kids kindergarten ready. In turn, they should have success through 12th grade and beyond,” she notes. Traci met Dan during her first year as an elementary school teacher. At the time, a 24-year old Dan was working at the Butler Street YMCA as the program director. While there was intrigue, it was far from love at first sight.
“We had an after-school program at her school,” says Dan, “But, I didn’t pay her any mind initially. We were staffing for the summer programs and she inquired about a job. When I hired her, Traci said to me: "Who knows what blessings God has in store for me?"
“When we met, I thought he was feeling me,” says Traci who was 23. “But we were both dating other people and very faithful in our relationships, so it was never entertained at that time. He was nice young man and I noticed he was different from any man I’d met or even dated. Most of the guys I knew at that time didn’t have a spiritual base and that was really important to me. I was attracted to that.”
Traci remembers at the time making a list of her top 10 ten qualities in an ideal mate. While the man she was dating didn’t comply to any of her desires, she realized that although they weren’t romantically involved, Dan fit the bill.
By the end of that summer, Dan and Traci were a couple and married in May of the following year. They will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary next month.
“To find somebody who is not only your lover but your BFF, your road dog, everything. It has completed me as a man. More than anything, she has helped me to understand how great I can be,” says Dan. “People tell me I’ve done all these wonderful things, but I can not say I would have accomplished any of those things if it were not for this wonderful lady by my side. She has never held me back from any opportunities. Of course, having kids and raising them with her has increased my level of validation both as the father to our children and the love of her life.”
All marriages come with ebbs and flows as life’s greatest hurdles can either pull you apart or draw you even closer together. The Sims are no different. Two years into their marriage, Dan was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“I was in denial for a long time. I just wouldn't accept it. I thought this couldn’t be him,” reveals Traci. “I was going to be by his side no matter what, but it was tough. I spent a lot of time in the closet crying. I never wanted him to see me because he didn't need to see me upset. I would just get by myself, cry and pray. We lived everyday to the fullest as I remained upbeat. We never got so in despair that we couldn’t see our way out.”
Wedding vows speak the promise of being present for the man or woman you love through all adversity. Dan knows, for sure, his wife’s promise to him is her truth. “For a woman to stand by you, take care of you, support you when you are sick to the point of death, stay home from work for six weeks, watch me go down to 150 pounds and after all that, to then be told that we had a zero to 20 percent chance of ever having kids.”
Adding to their challenge, Traci was told her Fallopian tubes were blocked and according to her doctor, the procedure to rectify the situation would only lower her chances to conceive. If there was ever a time to believe in faith, hope, and love, you only have to look at the Sims. After battling cancer, tuberculosis, and infertility issues, Dan and Traci naturally conceived their miracle baby, Jordan Anthony, in 2002.
A year later, they were pregnant again, this time with a girl they named Lauren Elaine. Unfortunately, their family would face one of their family’s greatest tragedies. “Losing a child brought Traci and I together even more,” says Dan. “All we had in immediate family was this baby boy, who really didn't know what was going on. It definitely made us cherish the beauty of our son and the beauty of our relationship. As painful as it was, it helped us realize that God is in control.”
Interestingly enough, the Sims credit their toddler son for helping them get through that traumatically difficult time. Traci recalls seeing Jordan sitting on his father’s lap during Lauren’s memorial service and wiping away his tears. Now at 13 years old, Jordan is a young athlete who enjoys playing golf, baseball, football and basketball.
“He is the image of his dad,” notes his proud mother. “I see great things for his future. He’d be the best lawyer ever because he can defend anything! He definitely puts my parenting skills to work!”
After the heartbreak of losing a baby, the last thing on their minds was having another one. But in 2005, the Sims were blessed with their “love child,” daughter, Kamille Lauren Elizabeth, who they believe helped to strengthened their faith and solidify the power of their relationship.
Her parents describe Kamille as a caring, loving girl with a heart of gold and the voice of an angel. As active as her brother, Kamille is a cheerleader, runs track, maintains straight A’s in school and has just been accepted into this year’s Dance Theater of Harlem’s Summer Intensive Program.
“I’m a serious dance mom and Dan is a true dance dad,” asserts Traci laughingly. “He’s the father who works with our daughter on her choreography! I would love for him to be my dad. He’s such a busy person, but he’s made the time to be my son’s baseball coach since Jordan was 3-years old. Even while earning his doctorate, he still coached the team and ran a school.”
A 17-year cancer survivor, Dan started wearing the “S” on his chest when he initially won the battle for his health. Now, every time he has a birthday, his students and faculty members wear Superman shirts and if you ask him about it, he’ll happily tell you his story.
“I’m one of the most hopeful people you’ll ever run across,” says Dan. “After cancer, the Superman logo stood for hope and more specifically the “S” stands for Sims, Survivor, Super man and Savior, as in Jesus Christ. As I come into my life as leader, I strive to be a Superman character. Not that I can knock down buildings, but all Superman represents is a person who uses his authority to help change the world. That’s my job as a decision maker and a person with power. Some people thought I was being arrogant, but it’s symbolic.”
The “S” on Dan’s chest has even more meaning because of the stability that he now has in his life. As parents who are indeed both survivors, he and Traci try to stay present in their children’s lives. They rarely bring work home, but opt instead for family time, playing games with their kids and focusing on one another. The secret they say is consistent communication, which helps Jordan and Kamille appreciate their parents and vice-versa. Their journey is one that continues to be empowered through character building, togetherness, and devotion. By the looks of it, no tribulation, no hurdle, no interruption exists that will ever penetrate this divinely inspired bond that has been fused for the Sims family.
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EBONY.com Contributing Writer