KC civil rights activist Alvin Sykes tapes his life’s story for C-SPAN
C-SPAN was in the house last Thursday night, when more than a hundred people gathered at the Kansas City Public Library to hear hometown civil rights activist Alvin Sykes talk about his life’s work.
Sykes mostly recapped a story that Pitch readers might already know: that of a kid from a troubled family, a high-school dropout — he likes to say he “transferred out of public school and into the public library” — who taught himself so much about the law that, many years later, he was able to convince the U.S. Justice Department to open an investigation into one of the most heinous crimes of the Civil Rights era. Sykes has since succeeded in getting both the House and the Senate to pass the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act, which will fund investigations into unsolved murders up until 1970.
“Thirty-five years ago I was sitting in the library all by myself,” he
began, appreciating the fact that he was now surrounded by so many other people.
At the end of the night, he had one request of his audience: He wanted people to go home and talk to their relatives. Was there anyone in the family who suddenly disappeared one night in the ’50s or ’60s? Anyone in the family who bragged about making someone disappear?