ALVIN SYKES’S HISTORY
Alvin Sykes was born July 21, 1956. At the time of his birth, his mother was barely 14 years old. Alvin was unofficially adopted by a family friend who raised him as her son. His adoptive mother sent him to Omaha to spend a few years in Boys Town, and organization and community founded by Father Edward J. Flanagan and dedicated to the care, treatment, and education of at-risk children. Sykes said the time spent there helped him become a better and more compassionate human being.
After leaving Boys Town, Sykes went to live with relatives, one of whom was a musician with a band called Threatening Weather. To pay his bills, Alvin became the manager of the band. At the same time, he decided to join Social Activist Community 20 and learn about community activism.
Sykes found his calling with the 1980 murder of Kansas City jazz musician Steve Harvey near the Liberty Memorial. As a jazz fan who’d been a friend of Harvey, he was dismayed when an all-white jury found the accused killer not guilty despite incriminating testimony from two accomplices. The defendant could not be tried again for the murder because it would violate the prohibition on double jeopardy.
Alvin Sykes, President of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign (ETJC), is a veteran professional human rights worker who has served as a victim advocate for countless victims of crimes and injustices for over four decades. Sykes led the Steve Harvey Justice Campaign’s successful effort to seek a federal criminal civil rights investigation by the FBI into the 1980 racially motivated murder of Kansas City musician Steve Harvey that resulted in the nationally historic conviction of his killer in 1983. As President of ETJC he led both the successful reopening of the 1955 murder of Emmett Till through a joint state and Federal investigation. He was the architect for both the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act (Till Bill) in 2007 and the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act 2016 (passed the Senate on 7/14/2016, presently before the House). He has also successfully lobbied for other reform measures that turned into law such as, Eyewitness Identification Reform Kansas; Jury Selection Reform Missouri; Public Housing Resident Voting Rights Ordinance Kansas City, Kansas, Animal Cruelty Reform Act “Scruffy’s Law.” Throughout the country Alvin Sykes has been a captivating and inspirational speaker. He has delighted audiences with his wealth of information on various topics at some of our nation's most prestigious colleges and universities including Harvard Law School, Northeastern Law School, Syracuse Law School, UMKC Law School, University of Chicago Law School, Bethany College, Kansas City Kansas Community College and more having only obtained a 9th grade formal education himself.
As a teenager he transferred from the Kansas City Kansas public schools to the Kansas City Kansas public library to obtain a greater education and was later named, as the first, Scholar in Residence of the Kansas City Public Library in 2013. Alvin Sykes serves on the Kansas City Kansas Public Library Board. Sykes graduated from the first ever class of certified human rights workers from the National Association of Human Rights Workers in 1996. He is currently a Commissioner for the Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority Board. Sykes cofounded, and served as President of the Justice Campaign of America, charter member of the Kansas City National Black United Front and is a lifetime member of the Social Action Committee of 20 (SAC20). In recognition for his tireless efforts and dedication to pursuing justice he has been awarded many honors nationally and internationally including, but not limited to; Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Humanitarian Award, Justice Charles Whittaker Award, Ad HOC Group Against Crime’s Guardian Shield Award, Missouri Black Legislative Caucus Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Burnham Award.
Sykes’s riveting life story and distinguishable work achievement have become so legendary that they have been included in chapters in the following books: “Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America,” by Mamie Till Mobley (Emmett’s mother); “Simeon's Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till,” by Simeon Wright (Emmett’s cousin); “From Midnight to Guntown: True Crime Stories from a Federal Prosecutor in Mississippi,” by John Hailman (Former Mississippi Prosecutor); “Leon Mercer Jordan, The Founder of Freedom, Inc. Following in the Footsteps of his Father & Grandfather,” by Dr. Robert Farnsworth’s; “The Pursuit of Truth,” monograph by Monroe Dodd, published by the Kansas City Public Library; “Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement,” by Devery S. Anderson (A 6-8 hour Emmett Till HBO tv movie, co-produced by actor Will Smith, and music mogul Jay-Z, is in active development based on Devery S. Anderson’s Emmett Till book).
Sykes is reaching new heights in his life by becoming an author in his own right for the following two literary book projects currently under development: “Second Chance at Justice: The Steve Harvey Case,” in collaboration with Aaron Barnhart a non-fiction young adult book on the Steve Harvey case to be published by Quindaro Press; “Show Me Justice: The Happy Life Journey of Alvin Page Sykes,” Syke’s autobiography in collaboration with Monroe Dodd.
Alvin passed away on March 19, 2021 at the age of 64.
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