The Oaktown Jazz Workshops appears annually at the MLK Day commemorations in Piedmont, as well as at other city events. Oakland-based Oaktown Jazz Workshops is an after-school music education program that draws younge people from all over the Bay Area.“Will was an ‘in-the-moment’ type of person with a peaceful vibe,” said Ravi Abcarian, executive director for Oaktown Jazz Workshops. “He enjoyed the collaborative aspect of music playing piano with a full group sound with the other musicians.“I met him when he was a young teenager in his formative years,” Abcarian continued. “His family was very supportive of him and his music. They were always driving him to different performances and rehearsals, a very engaged family.“He was also a good singer but we didn’t know that at the time because he was a little shy. I know he also later played other instruments. I know that he was targeted and it had nothing to do with a disagreement, but purely a hate crime. It is shocking,” Abcarian said.
The gentle, talented 28-year-old African American man was beaten, robbed and shot Nov. 12 at an El Sobrante pool hall, his body dumped on a roadway. The Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee called for donations to a gofundme account set up for Sims and posted on Facebook: “We mourn the senseless death of Will Sims, a graduate of Oakland School for the Arts and Oaktown Jazz Workshops as an alumnus from 2001 to 2006. He performed at many Piedmont MLK celebrations. “Piedmont resident Lois Corrin, an African American who for years organized the annual MLK Day event in Piedmont, expressed her sorrow about the death.“It is just despicable,” Corrin said. “A voice of jazz is not here any more; he was much too young (to die). He spread joy. We have to have peace and get along embracing and loving each other. No intolerance.“Who do these (suspects) think they were? He was an ambassador for humanity, another one of ours taken, a (sorrow) for both for the African American and the overall community.”
According to the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, a group of men jumped Sims inside the Capri Club. One suspect has been arrested, 31-year-old Daniel Porter-Kelly of Richmond. Sims was also a Richmond resident.The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office have charged Porter-Kelly with murder, with a hate crime enhancement. Two other suspects are being sought in connection with the crime, 32-year-old Ray Simons of Hercules, and 31-year-old Daniel Ortega, from Richmond or Novato.
Sims’ family spokesman James Harris said Sims also played guitar, saxophone and violin and was self-taught. He continued playing and singing at jazz festivals throughout Northern California. Sims was “a very gentle soul who didn’t have any problems with anyone,” Harris said in news accounts.Abcarian said Oaktown Jazz Workshops, as well as some community colleges and music programs, will be planning a tribute to Sims in the near future.
Note: A gofundme account has been established to help the Sims family with funeral and other expenses. Donate at www.gofundme.com/William-Simms-jr-memorial-fund-share. As of Tuesday, $16,515 had been raised.