Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More On Alvin Sykes: The Inspiration & Mastermind Behind The Emmett Till Bill...


By STEVE PENN
The Kansas City Star
Oct. 08, 2008
On Tuesday, President Bush signed H.R. 923 without fanfare.

With the stroke of the president’s pen, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act became law.

The law adds to the growing legend of Alvin Sykes, who was able to achieve what crafty lawyers and influential Washington lobbyists find almost impossible: He persuaded the House and the Senate to agree on something.

Watching Congress vote last week on the Wall Street bailout illustrated just how hard that is to accomplish that these days.

The legislation , known as the Till Bill, essentially will fund investigations of unsolved homicides from 1970 on back.

Sykes not only came up with the idea for the Till Bill, he also helped craft the legislation. The law creates two positions, a special supervisory agent over the civil rights unit of the FBI and a deputy chief of the criminal section of the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department, who will investigate the unsolved cases. The bill also authorizes up to $135 million over 10 years for investigations.

Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, put a hold on the legislation for 15 months, but the persuasive Sykes eventually persuaded Coburn to lead the charge for its passage.

In the end, Coburn wasn’t pleased that the Senate’s Democratic majority wouldn’t cut other priorities within the federal budget to pay for the bill. But not even those concerns could dull Coburn’s glowing praise for Sykes.

“I can’t say enough about his stamina, his integrity, his forthrightness, his determination,” Coburn said of Sykes. “So I come to the floor of the Senate to sing his praises and to recognize him publicly for his tremendous efforts.”

The Till Bill is named after Emmett Till, an African-American teenager from Chicago who was beaten and killed Aug. 28, 1955, after he allegedly whistled at a white woman in Mississippi. An all-white jury acquitted Roy Bryant and J.W. Milan, who eventually admitted their involvement to Look magazine.

Now that the Till Bill is law, it will create what Sykes calls the greatest criminal manhunt in this country’s history.

“We’re hopefully going to find these perpetrators and have them held criminally accountable for their deeds that were done so long ago that they thought they had gotten away with it,” Sykes said.

Sykes is a bit disappointed that the president didn’t hold a signing ceremony for the bill at the White House.

“We wanted it to be at the White House, so Emmett Till’s family could benefit,” Sykes said. “However, we’re going to do our celebrating of the bill in the courtrooms across America when the cases are prosecuted. We’re already celebrating by striking fear into the hearts of those old men who thought they got away with these crimes.”

Sykes’ work inspired a local rapper, Roger Suggs, to create a song called “Emmett Till.” The song can be accessed at www.myspace.com/vigalantee.

“I decided to do it in hip-hop form,” Suggs said. “There are many young people who don’t even know about Emmett Till. I hope it makes people run back to the library to learn more about him.”

Sykes is an example of a regular guy who has done some remarkable things. He doesn’t have a juris doctorate, a high school diploma or even a GED. However, his victories in the courtroom and now in Congress rival those of many savvy lawyers and statesmen.

Sykes can be pushy and a bit of a gadfly sometimes. No one can deny his effectiveness. He’s never let his education limit his dreams or his goals.

As a result, Sykes will forever be associated with an important piece of civil rights legislation that passed Congress with unanimous consent. With partisan politics ruling the day, that can’t be minimized or diminished in any way.

To reach Steve Penn, call 816-234-4417 or send e-mail to spenn@kcstar.com.

© 2009 Kansas City Star and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.kansascity.com


Perseverance Pays Off For Civil Rights Activist

Alvin Sykes Has Successfully Urged Feds To Reopen Cold Cases


Anna-Marie Perry

Alvin Sykes holds none of the standard credentials to wield influence in the power corridors of Washington, D.C. He is not a lobbyist or an attorney, nor did he graduate from a prestigious college. In fact, he is a high school dropout.

Yet senators listen to him. Prosecutors return his calls. As a self-made civil rights activist, Sykes persuaded the Justice Department to re-investigate the 1955 slaying of 14-year-old Emmett Till, and he deserves a fair share of the credit for the department's recent decision to review as many as 100 old murders in 14 states.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced the investigation as Congress prepares to vote on a bill that would set up a permanent cold case unit in the Justice Department to probe those old crimes.

Last year, Sykes, as chairman of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, persuaded his then-home-state senator, Jim Talent, R-Mo., to introduce the bill. Since then, Sykes and other civil rights leaders have helped sell it. Although Talent lost his seat in last fall's election, the bill — which authorizes $11.5 million to fund the unit — has new sponsors and has gained momentum in both houses and parties.

"He reflects the spirit of the civil rights movement, where ordinary people found a way to make a difference," says Brenda Jones, spokeswoman for Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., whose beating during a protest march through Selma, Ala., in 1965 helped propel the Voting Rights Act through Congress. Lewis is sponsoring the House version of the Till bill.

Sykes is described by those who know him as tenacious and informed. "He's a very pragmatic man," says Donald Burger, a retired Justice Department mediator who met Sykes in the 1970s during battles to desegregate Kansas City, Mo., schools.

U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee of Mississippi's northern district in Oxford had never heard of Sykes when Sykes asked him in 2004 to reopen the Till case.

The case was legendary. Most of the principals were dead or old and in poor health. The statute of limitations on applicable federal laws had expired. Only state charges related to murder or manslaughter remained possible.
Sykes arrived in Oxford armed with a legal argument that laid out why the FBI had jurisdiction to proceed with a new federal probe. "He was extremely informed and very logically presented why it should be looked into," Greenlee says.

Sykes grew up poor and sickly in Kansas City, the product of a 14-year-old mother and a father he never knew. "When I first met him, he was in his casket," Sykes says of his father. "I was 27.

Prone to schoolyard fights, Sykes dropped out of school in the ninth grade. Although he once dreamed of becoming a lawyer, he got most of his education from the public library. To support himself, Sykes found a job managing a local R&B band, Threatening Weather.

After campaigning to desegregate Kansas City schools, he helped persuade Missouri legislators to lower the age of jurors from 21 to 18, thus widening the pool of potential jurors. He also persuaded the Justice Department to re-investigate the mysterious death of a black teenager in Kansas City in 1985 Although the report was inconclusive, the federal involvement helped calm local residents, who had been skeptical of the local police investigation, Burger says.

He adds: "That would never have happened if it hadn't been for Alvin."

Sykes' major achievement involved the 1980 murder of a local jazz musician named Steve Harvey, who was beaten to death with a baseball bat. The man charged with the murder had been acquitted.

Sykes thumbed through library law books and found an obscure federal statute that essentially said a person couldn't be deprived of his use of a public facility because of race. Using contacts he had made at the Justice Department during the school desegregation struggle, Sykes contacted Richard Roberts, the attorney in the civil rights division who was looking into the Harvey case. "He said, 'Send me everything you've got,' " Sykes says. In 1983, Roberts won the conviction of Raymond Bledsoe on federal civil rights violation charges. He is now serving a life sentence.

"He didn't just call once," says Roberts, now a federal district judge in Washington, D.C. "Ordinarily, people who want to know about a case will go to their local U.S. attorney. I was struck by the fact that Sykes did not rest with that. He pressed forward with more research on his own. His questions to me were pointed and showed someone who had done his homework."

The murder of young Emmett Till, who was killed in Mississippi after whistling at a white woman in a store, galvanized the civil rights movement.

Although Till's killers were known — Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were acquitted a month after Till's death and later confessed in an interview with Look magazine — subsequent investigations centered on whether the men acted alone. Trial testimony suggested that Bryant's then-wife might have been with her husband and brother-in-law when Till was abducted.

Sykes pored over library law books and consulted with his Justice Department contacts. They steered him to a 1976 opinion by Antonin Scalia, then an assistant attorney general and now a Supreme Court justice, that gave the federal government jurisdiction to conduct further investigation into President Kennedy's assassination. The same opinion was used to investigate Martin Luther King Jr.'s murder.

"Even if the statute of limitations had run out, it meant that there could be an investigation for Till," Sykes says.

A Mississippi grand jury last month declined to indict Bryant's ex-wife, Carolyn Bryant Donham.

To Sykes, that doesn't mean the end of the Till case. He says he made that promise to Till's mother, Mamie Till Mobley, before she died in 2003.

The FBI has compiled 8,000 pages of notes and interviews. Now Sykes wants the Justice Department to publish a report of the investigation.

"I made that pledge to Mrs. Mobley before she died that we would get the truth out," he says.

Credit – Laura Parker for USA Today 3/19/07


Visit Alvin Sykes' Official Website:

http://alvinsykes.com/

Contact An American Civil Rights Veteran Today:
http://www.crmvet.org/

More On W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio:

A Great Profile Of Civil Rights Cold Case Justice Crusader Alvin Sykes...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2009/03/great-profile-of-civil-rights-cold-case.html

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio Special~Meet Alvin Sykes: Civil Rights Cold Case Justice Crusader...
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2009/04/02/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio Special: The Shame Of A Nation...The Emmett Till Legacy

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2009/03/12/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio

See More Emmett Till On W.E. A.L.L. B.E.:

FBI Report: Woman Emmett Till 'Whistled' @ Still Alive...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/09/fbi-report-woman-emmett-till-whistled.html

What I Will Teach My Black Son To Fear....
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2006/12/what-i-will-teach-my-black-son-to-fear.html

Park In Honor Of Emmett Till Opens Friday Sept. 19, 2008, in Mississippi...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/09/park-in-honor-of-emmett-till-opens.htmlmett-till-opens.html

Mississippi Comes Face To Face With Brutal Past In Emmett Till Exhibit...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/03/mississippi-comes-face-to-face-with.html

Tha Artivist Remembers Ernest Withers (1922-2007)...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2007/11/tha-artivist-remembers-ernest-withers.html

Mississippi Still Burning Like Southern California...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2007/10/mississippi-still-burning-like-southern.html

No Justice, Just Us For EMMETT...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2007/03/no-justice-just-us-for-emmett.html

A Great Profile Of Civil Rights Cold Case Justice Crusader Alvin Sykes...


Anna-Marie Perry

Justice at Last?
Alvin Sykes May Be A High School Dropout, But He Knows How To Make Senators Listen And Murderers Sweat.
By C.J. Janovy
The Pitch (Kansas City)

published: March 23, 2006

It's three in the afternoon on New Year's Eve, and a hundred or so people have shown up at the Gem Theater. Among them are celebrity politicians, including U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. Sen. Jim Talent has sent his comments in a short video. They're not here for a party, though.

Cleaver is here to bestow Kansas City souvenirs — a Negro Leagues Baseball Museum T-shirt, some Gates barbecue sauce — upon a young filmmaker from New York City named Keith Beauchamp. Over the past two years, Beauchamp has made national news for his documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. It revisits the 1955 lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till. The teenager's death helped ignite the civil rights movement.

Over the next hour, agony fills the Gem.

In Beauchamp's film, Till's now gray-haired mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, sits on a couch, calmly recounting her brave role in history.

They lived in Chicago. Emmett was a happy baby, she says. Nothing fazed him. His cousin, Simeon Wright, now in his early sixties, recalls that Emmett had no sense of danger: "Everything was funny to him. He shot some firecrackers within the city limits, which was a no-no."

But a sense of danger was a survival skill for black people in Mississippi, and Emmett wanted to go there to visit his cousins in the summer of 1955. Beauchamp's film shows black men hanging from trees and TV footage of a mob beating a black man for sitting at a lunch counter.

"They always kind of prepped you for going to Mississippi. Told you what the South was like," says Emmett's cousin Wheeler Parker. "I don't know if Emmett was told or not."

Emmett goes to Mississippi anyway. His cousins and their friends spend the days playing in the cotton fields; at night they go to the country store in the center of Money, Mississippi, to play checkers with other boys.

The two-story, whitewashed wooden building with big Coca-Cola signs on its fa├žade is Bryant's grocery store. The white woman working inside is Carolyn Bryant, a dark-haired 1950s beauty.

Inside the store, Emmett buys 10 cents' worth of bubble gum.

"He and I left the store together," Wright recalls. "We didn't have any conversation with Mrs. Bryant. She came out of the store and went to her car ... That's when Emmett whistled at her. The famous wolf whistle."

If Emmett doesn't understand what he's just done, his cousins do. Horrified, they flee as fast as they can.

In the middle of the night, three days later, two men — Carolyn Bryant's husband, Roy, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam — charge into the house were Emmett is staying. Armed with a pistol and a flashlight, they ransack the house until they find Emmett. They drag him away.

Three days pass before someone finds Emmett's body in the Tallahatchie River. It's so badly beaten that his great uncle, Mose Wright, can identify it only by Emmett's ring, engraved with his initials.

The Tallahatchie County sheriff wants an immediate burial — a literal cover-up — but Mamie Till-Mobley demands that her son's body be shipped home. The pine box arrives with instructions that it's not to be opened. The funeral director unlocks it anyway. "When I came to the funeral home, about three blocks away, an odor met me that nearly knocked me out," Till-Mobley remembers. "It was Emmett's body. That's how the smell was so strong, until it covered a two- or three-block area."

Her next words are hauntingly matter-of-fact.

"I saw his tongue had been choked out, and it was lying down on his chin. I saw that this [right] eye was out, and it was lying about midway down the cheek. I looked at this eye, and it was gone. I looked at the bridge of his nose, and it looked like someone had taken a meat chopper and chopped it. And I looked at his teeth, because I took so much pride in his teeth. His teeth were the prettiest things I'd ever seen in my life, I thought, and I only saw two. Where are the rest of them? They'd just been knocked out. I was looking at his ears. His ears were like mine ... they curled up the same way mine are, and I didn't see the ear. Where's the ear? And that's when I discovered a hole about here, and I could see daylight on the other side.... And I also discovered that they had taken an ax, and they had gone straight down across his head, and the face and the back of the head were separate."

Beauchamp's film cuts to a photo of the corpse's head. The audience at the Gem Theater gasps.

Wanting the world to see what happened to her son, Till-Mobley holds an open-casket funeral. Thousands show up. Women faint in the line of mourners; others have to be carried out.

From here, Beauchamp's film turns to Emmett's killers — Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam. With his bald head and beady eyes, Milam embodies human swine; in the courtroom, the handsome Bryant bounces his two toddlers on his lap — a good family man who has just beaten someone else's son to death.

The September trial was a media circus even by today's standards.

Emmett's mother on TV: "It's my opinion that the guilt begins with Mrs. Bryant, and I want to see Mrs. Bryant punished, her husband and any other persons that were in on this thing. And I feel like the pressure should start with the president of the United States and be channeled all the way down to the township of Money, Mississippi."

Activists repeat a decades-long call for federal anti-lynching laws, but President Dwight Eisenhower and Congress fail to act.

Tallahatchie County Sheriff H.C. Strider: "I'd like for the NAACP or any colored organization anywhere to know that we intend to give a fair and impartial trial.... We never have any trouble until some of our Southern niggers go up north and the NAACP talks to them and they come back home."

It takes the all-white jury an hour to acquit Milam and Bryant. Outside, the two men light up cigars.

"I'm just glad it's over with," Roy Bryant says before he and Carolyn flaunt a long, jaw-grinding kiss.

Four months later, Look magazine pays Milam and Bryant $4,000 to publish their confession. (Beauchamp's movie avoids excerpts, but the article includes quotes from Milam such as, "I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain't gonna vote where I live. If they did, they'd control the government. They ain't gonna go to school with my kids. And when a nigger gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he's tired o' livin'.")

Double-jeopardy law prevents prosecutors from putting the killers on trial again for the murder.

Beauchamp's isn't the first documentary about Emmett Till. But he got Simeon Wright to speak up after five decades of silence, and Wright hooked up Beauchamp with other witnesses. Early screenings of Beauchamp's work in progress sparked new interest in the case, and national news outlets have reported that the film is one reason that federal agents in May 2004 opened a new investigation into Till's murder.

The work of the stylish young filmmaker from New York leaves the Gem's audience shaken.

The man who really deserves the credit, though, is pacing the shadows at the edge of the theater, dressed in a gray suit that looks half a size too big. He spends a few quick minutes sharing the podium with Beauchamp but lets the filmmaker have most of the attention. If there's to be justice for Emmett Till — and countless other murder victims from the civil rights era — that may be because of the much more quiet work of a Kansas City man who never graduated from high school.

Alvin Sykes has a face that suggests his 49 years have been rough. He has no car, no cell phone. He won't say where he lives. His base of operations is the W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center, a community education center at 55th Street and Cleveland, but he keeps "satellite offices" all over the country — public libraries where patrons are allotted 15- or 45-minute blocks of computer time. He uses the time to send two-finger-typed e-mails to senators, prosecutors and officials in the U.S. Department of Justice. Sometimes the computer cuts him off midsentence, so he has to wait his next turn and recompose his message.

He spent the first three months of this year waiting on a phone call from Mississippi 4th Judicial District Attorney Joyce Chiles. Last week, the FBI turned over to Chiles the results of its two-year inquiry. Now it's up to her to decide whether there will be any new charges in the Till case.

J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant are long dead, but Carolyn Bryant is still alive. And for 50 years, there's been speculation that several other people took part in the lynching. Some of the accomplices may have been black — neighbors who perhaps feared they'd be next if they didn't help.

Sykes went on the crusade to get a new investigation in the Till case after a December 2002 article in the Kansas City Call noted that Mamie Till-Mobley was trying to get her son's murder case reopened.

Sykes had some experience bringing killers to justice after they'd been acquitted.

"I called Mrs. Mobley and Wheeler Parker," Sykes tells the Pitch. On January 4, 2003, he traveled to Chicago to meet with Till-Mobley. They decided to start the Emmett Till Justice Campaign. Mamie Till-Mobley would be president of the organization.

Two days later, she died.

Watching Beauchamp's film, it's clear that Mamie Till-Mobley's act of defiance was equal to the one committed by Rosa Parks. But her name isn't nearly so well known. "Even now, it's still not a popular story. It doesn't make people look good," Wheeler Parker tells the Pitch. "When I go to speak at schools, it brings back the repercussions, the atmosphere and the attitude that people really wish that kind of thing would go away and people would not talk about it."

But Sykes believed that Till-Mobley had passed her torch to him.

So he called the Department of Justice. Opening Till's case wasn't a matter of evidence, Sykes knew, but rather a matter of convincing the feds that they had jurisdiction to investigate a small-town Mississippi murder all these years later. So, as he has done repeatedly over the past 30 years, he went to the library and dug into law books.

Eventually, he homed in on a single word in a 1976 opinion by an assistant attorney general named Antonin Scalia. The opinion gave the feds jurisdiction to conduct further investigations into John F. Kennedy's assassination. The government had used the same opinion to investigate Martin Luther King Jr.'s murder. Ten years before he became a Supreme Court justice, Scalia concluded that even when violators couldn't be prosecuted for their alleged crimes (such as when a statute of limitations had run out), the public interest was still served by efforts to detect whether those crimes had even been committed. Further, Scalia wrote, sometimes the Department of Justice needs to investigate its own investigations.

After months of meetings with Sykes, Emmett Till's relatives, Beauchamp, and various Mississippi and federal officials, the Department of Justice announced in May 2004 the opening of a new, full-scale investigation.

Over the past two years, the FBI has gone back over the evidence. Chiles received the results of the bureau's investigation last Thursday.

Chiles generally refuses media inquiries about the case, but she did speak with the Pitch.

"I take no credit for the opening of the Till investigation," she says. Although her office was the one that officially requested the assistance of the Justice Department and the FBI in looking into the case, Sykes laid the groundwork for that to happen, she says. "I think it was Sykes' effort and his contacts in Washington that played the biggest role."

Chiles describes Sykes as sincere and tenacious. She remembers her first contact with him in February 2004. "I talked to him on the phone and had no idea who he was. But he was telling me about two meetings he had set up in Mississippi that he'd like me to attend. He gave me the choice of [meeting in] Oxford or Jackson. Out of curiosity, I chose the Oxford site to see who this person was who was so brazen that he would give me a choice of meeting in two places."

That meeting involved Sykes, Beauchamp, Simeon Wright and staffers at the U.S. Attorney's office. "Mr. Sykes was very vocal in why the investigation should be reopened," Chiles recalls. "We all listened very attentively to him as he spoke, and I have been in contact with him since that moment. One thing about him that I find most interesting is that he's not the most concerned with trial, trial, trial, but more or less learning the truth and if justice can be served then it should be."

If Sykes has his way, the search for truth won't end when the Emmett Till case does.

Sykes has convinced Sen. Talent to introduce legislation that could dedicate $10 million to creating an office in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting unsolved murders from the civil rights era.

Talent tells the Pitch, "When Alvin suggested it, it just hit me — of course we've got to do that."

Cynics might think that Talent — who has earned straight F's in the NAACP's annual Legislative Report Cards for his failure to support the organization's causes — is jumping on an emotional bandwagon to court black voters. But the senator appears to be devoted to bringing unsolved civil rights-era cases to justice.

Others are, too. Last June, a Mississippi judge sentenced 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen to 60 years in prison for the mob deaths of three civil rights workers in 1964.

"There were really two crimes involved in each of these cases," Talent says. "One of them is the murders that happened, and the second is the failure of the local and federal authorities to investigate. When you talk to family members, you see the echoes of the injustice just go down one generation after another. I believe that for the future of the country, we need to find the truth.... Now, that's going to mean these cases are going to be regularly brought to the surface, and that's going to be traumatic, but I think it will be healthy as well."

Talent calls Sykes his "principal adviser on civil rights," though it's an informal title. "Alvin is an enormously dedicated, focused person. He's very shrewd. You can talk to him almost like you could talk to someone who'd been in the Legislature for 10 years."

That Sykes could be advising a senator on anything is remarkable, considering where he came from.

Ask Sykes where he was born, and he'll say he was conceived in Kansas City, Kansas.

"My mother was 14 when she had me, and she was sent to Topeka to a home for unwed mothers," he says. "But Topeka was to hide my birth, so I don't really claim Topeka."

Because his 14-year-old mother was unable to raise him, Sykes was brought up by a woman named Burnetta Page. She was a wonderful woman, he says, who "fit somewhere in the family structure." He considered her his mother.

Sykes had epilepsy as a child, and it seemed to him that he spent as much time at Children's Mercy Hospital as he did in the Page house near 26th Street and Highland. He never thought he would live past 18. But when he was 11, something happened that set him on his present course.

Page had warned him about some bad people who lived across the street. Page did her best to scare Sykes away from them. "She said, 'If you don't stay away from over there, I'm gonna kill you.' She could really put the fear in you. But they had candy, so that outweighed the risk.

"Unfortunately, I should have listened to her, because they were bad people, and they raped me. It was a man and a woman."

Sykes didn't know what to do. "I didn't feel like I could go to my mom and tell her because she said she'd kill me and that was worse than what I'd gone through," he says. "But there was nowhere else to go. I decided I'd just handle it myself. I thought, I'll go back and confront them as to why they did that to me. And all they did was did it again."

His 11-year-old logic might have failed him, but the experience taught him that people sometimes need help from someone other than family or police. That realization became clearer the next year, in 1968, when riots broke out following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

Six people died and more than 100 were arrested over six days that April. "I couldn't understand why people were tearing up the community and killing folks and engaging in violence in the name of a man who devoted his life to peace," he says. "The second thing was, if they were mad at white folks, why were they tearing up our stores and our homes?" When the mob set fire to the grocery store where he bought his candy, he and a friend went into action. They rode around on their bikes and turned in people who were starting fires, and they directed traffic for firefighters.

That's when he developed two ideals to live by. He was going to help whenever someone in trouble couldn't go to their families or the police. And he was going to live past 18.

His adolescent justice campaign didn't win him a lot of friends in the neighborhood, though. To lots of folks, he was a snitch. So Page sent him to Boys Town, the Nebraska home for at-risk kids.

He spent three years there before coming back to Kansas City and enrolling at Central High School. He was soon suspended for fighting. Once again, he knew he would be in trouble with Page. So Sykes left to find his birth mother on the Kansas side.

Shortly before going to Boys Town, he'd discovered that the woman he'd thought was his cousin was actually his mother. "Up until then, things that were supposed to be true changed so much," he says. "So I guess that pushed me to be very hard at determining when something is true or not. It was the same way with the dad situation. I found out later about my natural father, but the first time I saw him in my life was when I was 27 and he was in his casket."

Things weren't turning out so well with his blood relations. Boys Town had taught him the importance of getting an education, but he was growing bored with the public schools in Kansas City, Kansas.

"I graduated from Northeast Junior, and then I went to Sumner for a minute, and then I transferred," he says. "Everybody else calls it dropping out, but to me it's transferred." Sykes enrolled himself in the school of self-education.

Every day, Sykes went to the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library. He would study, and he would take a lunch break, and then he'd come back and study.

By then, in the early 1970s, he was living with his aunt and uncle, Jolene Powell and Alonzo Powell Sr., and their five boys.

"I tried to encourage him to stay in school and go to school with my kids, but he just wasn't a school child," Jolene Powell says. "I couldn't keep him in school. He had no direction."

Actually, he did. One of Jolene's sons, Alonzo "Scooter" Powell Jr., had a band. They practiced in the basement, and Sykes started hanging around. Powell was a drummer in some of the most well-known R&B bands at the time — the Threatening Weather Band and the Get Down People Band — that played at now long-shuttered nightclubs, such as the 50 Yard Line on Fifth Street in Kansas City, Kansas, and the Inferno Show Lounge at 41st Street and Troost. Sykes, fascinated by the musician's life, became a manager for Powell's bands.

But he hadn't lost his inherent tendency to troubleshoot.

Even though he'd abandoned school, Sykes threw himself into a desegregation fight in the Kansas City, Kansas, School District. The superintendent argued that students shouldn't have a say in his busing plan, but Sykes thought they should.

"There were community meetings out in the neighborhoods," recalls Donald Burger, who was a mediator with the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Relations Service. "Alvin Sykes was active among some of the young black adults speaking out in support of student involvement. In those first meetings, there weren't all that many young black males or young adults involved. Most of the leaders were women in their early thirties who had children in junior and high schools. Alvin stood out." From there, Burger remembers, Sykes emerged as spokesman for victims of crime who had encountered problems with school district officials and police departments.

Even when Sykes was living with her as a very young man, Jolene Powell recalls, "Senators from Washington, D.C., were calling, shocking us all."

Burger would spend the next 30 years involved in Sykes' various causes.

It was around that time that Sykes met the man he calls his best friend — the famous jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. Because he was plugged into the music scene, Sykes went backstage before one of Hancock's Kansas City concerts. Sykes grew mesmerized by a strange, rhythmic noise coming from behind a closed door; after the concert, when Sykes introduced himself, Hancock explained he was a Buddhist; Sykes had heard him chanting.

Hancock became Sykes' mentor in the spiritual practice that would sustain him.

"I've watched him grow from an ordinary teenager to an extraordinary hero over the years," Hancock tells the Pitch.

When five musicians were killed in random murders over a two-year period from 1979 to 1981, Sykes' parallel passions converged.

Among the five musicians was Steve Harvey, who was beaten to death with a baseball bat at the Liberty Memorial on November 5, 1980.

"Steve was considered a prince in the music community," Sykes says. "People viewed him as a future Charlie Parker, and he was just great on that sax. Everybody knew him."

An all-white jury acquitted Raymond L. Bledsoe, who is white, in Harvey's slaying. Bledsoe reportedly bragged later that he had gotten away with murder.

"So me and Steve Harvey's widow went to the library," Sykes recalls. "I spent all day looking for something I didn't know where it was, going through the books. It was, like, 10 minutes until closing time when I found it — 18.245: Federally Protected Activities was the name of the statute." Essentially, the statute said that a person couldn't be deprived of his or her use of a public facility — which would include by murder — because of race.

After putting in a call to the Justice Department, Sykes wound up on the phone with Richard W. Roberts, a trial attorney for the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division. (He is now a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C.) "He listened to what I had to say. Near the end, he cut in and said, 'Send me what you got. We may be able to do something.'"

After Sykes' effort, U.S. prosecutors took the case in 1983. Bledsoe is now serving a life sentence at a federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado.

Burger, and then Roberts, would become part of Sykes' vast network of local, state and federal law-enforcement officials. Though he lacks a high school diploma, Sykes speaks to them in legalese. And though he operates in the highly charged arena of race relations, he earns their respect by being objective.

"I put the politics aside. I don't get caught up in whatever administration is in. Whoever's sitting in that seat is who I work with. I can't see letting four years go by because the wrong administration is in power."

Sykes is essentially doing the same thing he did as a 12-year-old on a bicycle, referring to himself as a victim's advocate.

But it's not especially lucrative work.

"It ain't good for payin' well, and it ain't good for love life," Sykes confesses.

But he keeps things simple. He doesn't need much, he says. "Pay the bills, transportation, housing, and I'm good to go until the next time."

Sykes says he also has a core of supporters who will write checks for various causes. With the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, he says, "I have a salary, but it's on the deferred payment plan. My salary is $27,500 a year as president of the organization, and I guess they [the board of directors] owe me somewhere around $50,000." With increased interest in the Till case nationwide, he's starting to pick up honorariums for speaking at colleges. And the Justice Campaign now gets half the proceeds when copies of Mamie Till-Mobley's book, Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America, sell at Justice Campaign events.

Hancock has a deep appreciation for Sykes' work on the case. "I am just about the age that Emmett Till would have been. I'm from Chicago," he says. Jet magazine's center photograph of Till's face in the coffin gave Hancock nightmares for months. Till's funeral was a few blocks from the apartment where Hancock lived, and he remembers driving past with his parents. "I saw a man staggering out of there, out of his mind, delirious with grief, and that frightened me. This man was sobbing uncontrollably and muttering something, I don't know what. He could barely walk," Hancock recalls.

"What Alvin has been able to do with his life and his sense of justice has been extraordinary."

But the truth is, he wishes he could quit.

"I really don't want to do this the rest of my life," he says. "I get more joy out of being in a recording studio than I do being in a court of law." He wants to write song lyrics, go back to managing bands. "Being in the recording studio while the band is recording — that's what gives me the best joy. That's where I want to end."

Keith Beauchamp's movie came out on DVD at the end of February. Before he finished the film, he had a hard time getting black leaders to pay attention to him. Finally, Theodore Shaw, the director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told him to work with Sykes.

"It's very difficult being young — I didn't get the respect that I deserved at the time," Beauchamp tells the Pitch. "For so long, you hear your elders saying, 'What has this generation done to contribute to the civil rights movement that still exists and gave us liberation?' I talked to a lot of people, and nobody was willing to help."

He made contact with Sykes, and the two, with Donald Burger and Mamie Till-Mobley, started the Emmett Till Justice Campaign just a week before Till-Mobley's death.

On February 23, Sykes presided over a forum called "A Civil Rights Symposium: Why Must We Still Care?" in the auditorium at Kansas City, Kansas, Community College. Among the speakers were Emmett Till's cousins, Wheeler Parker and Simeon Wright.

More than 100 people were there. Except for what looked like one college class, most of them were older — old enough to remember Emmett Till's murder, old enough to have marched for civil rights.

At one chilling point, Wright remembered the night that Milam and Bryant yanked Emmett Till out of bed. Wright was 12. He knows there's someone still alive to be punished, he said.

"She was in the truck," he said. "She identified him. It was a woman's voice. She can get that blood off of her hands."

If the Department of Justice is going to go after anyone, Wright reiterated during the Q&A afterward, it's Carolyn Bryant.

But she's not talking. It's likely we'll hear her story only if she's forced to take the witness stand.

Bryant was 21 in 1955. She's now 72. She refused to speak with 60 Minutes in October 2004, but a cameraman took her picture. With short gray hair and silver-rimmed glasses, she looked as if she could have been some white kid's favorite grandmother.

At the Kansas City, Kansas, Community College forum, Wright dismissed the argument he often hears: that his family's quest for justice is tearing open old wounds.

He tells people, "You must not have been wounded. I was wounded. If I can stand it, you can."

No one knows how many civil rights-era murders remain to be solved, Sykes told the audience.

"Some were never talked about — other than that one day, somebody's loved one left and they never saw them again," he said. Many families simply fled Mississippi.

Sykes urged everyone to go home and question their relatives, dig for painful, long-held family secrets.

When the FBI delivered the results of its inquiry to Chiles last week, it announced that there would be no federal charges. This didn't bother Sykes — his strategy all along was to go for state charges, he says. As of press time, Chiles had not announced her intentions. It may take weeks before she decides whether to file new charges.

"I promised Ms. Mobley a thorough and fair investigation. I could not promise her a conviction," Sykes says.

But the fact that there's been an investigation is its own form of justice. After all, Sykes says, "J. Edgar Hoover said there would never be an investigation."

On April 19, Sykes plans to give a speech to the Mississippi District Attorneys Association, asking them to support Talent's "Till Bill." It's a major milestone, he says, being able to meet with that state's top law enforcers. Getting them to work with the feds, he says, "will go a long way toward eradicating these last vestiges of slavery, the civil rights murders."

More evidence of how far the country has come over the past 50 years: Today, justice is in the hands of Joyce Chiles, the first black female district attorney elected in Leflore County.

Visit Alvin Sykes' Official Website:

http://alvinsykes.com/

Contact An American Civil Rights Veteran Today:
http://www.crmvet.org/

More On W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio:

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio Special~Meet Alvin Sykes: Civil Rights Cold Case Justice Crusader...
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2009/04/02/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio Special: The Shame Of A Nation...The Emmett Till Legacy

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2009/03/12/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio



See More Emmett Till On W.E. A.L.L. B.E.:

FBI Report: Woman Emmett Till 'Whistled' @ Still Alive...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/09/fbi-report-woman-emmett-till-whistled.html

What I Will Teach My Black Son To Fear....
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2006/12/what-i-will-teach-my-black-son-to-fear.html


Park In Honor Of Emmett Till Opens Friday Sept. 19, 2008, in Mississippi...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/09/park-in-honor-of-emmett-till-opens.htmlmett-till-opens.html

Mississippi Comes Face To Face With Brutal Past In Emmett Till Exhibit...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/03/mississippi-comes-face-to-face-with.html

Tha Artivist Remembers Ernest Withers (1922-2007)...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2007/11/tha-artivist-remembers-ernest-withers.html

Mississippi Still Burning Like Southern California...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2007/10/mississippi-still-burning-like-southern.html

No Justice, Just Us For EMMETT...
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2007/03/no-justice-just-us-for-emmett.html

A Sad Day In Memphis Hoops: Calipari Leaving For Bluer Grass & Pastures...




By Dan Wolken
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Tuesday, March 31, 2009

After nearly a full day of reflection and struggle, John Calipari decided today to accept the head coaching job at Kentucky and leave the University of Memphis, according to a source close to Calipari.

The Louisville Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Calipari called former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall to discuss the program and its tradition.

Calipari leaves Memphis after nine seasons, the last four of which elevated the Tigers’ program to heights never before seen in school history, including an appearance in the 2008 NCAA championship game.

Calipari’s deal at Kentucky is expected to be in the range of $5 million per year. Despite those mega-numbers, which will make Calipari the highest-paid coach in college basketball by a wide margin, Memphis had indeed offered a better deal, according to sources close to the process.

On Monday afternoon, just when it appeared certain Calipari would accept Kentucky’s deal, he met with influential Memphians including William B. Dunavant, John Stokes and Paul Tudor Jones, according to a source. Later in the night, Fred Smith went to Calipari’s house for a meeting.

Their last-ditch efforts to get Calipari to stay included a lucrative retirement package and incentives that one Memphis booster described as unique.

Late into Monday evening, a source closely connected to Calipari described the situation as “intense” and said Calipari was divided about whether to leave. He showed up at Gibson’s Donuts in East Memphis on Tuesday morning and indicated he would make a decision in the afternoon.

The program will now move to its first coaching search since 2000, when the program was in deep turmoil following the departure of Tic Price. Among the names at the top of the list should be Missouri coach Mike Anderson, Southern California coach Tim Floyd and perhaps Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy.

There could also be massive fallout from the current recruiting class and roster.

“I could get out of my letter of intent if he wasn’t there for any reason,” top recruit Xavier Henry told reporters at the McDonald’s All-American game in Miami on Tuesday. “It re-opens my whole recruitment to everybody and anybody.”

Calipari by the numbers

445-140: Record in 20 years as coach at Massachusetts, New Jersey Nets, Memphis

252-69: Record in nine years at Memphis

130: Number of Memphis victories in nine previous years before Calipari

117-25: Conference USA record under Calipari

137: Number of victories under Calipari the past four years, an NCAA record

7: Number of Tigers taken in NBA Draft after coaching by Calipari (Dajuan Wagner, Antonio Burks, Rodney Carney, Shawne Williams, Derrick Rose, Joey Dorsey, Chris Douglas-Roberts)
Scripps Lighthouse

© 2009 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online


Reports: Calipari To Leave Memphis For Kentucky


Nikki Boertman/The Commercial Appeal
University of Memphis basketball coach John Calipari resigned and will take the head coaching position at the University of Kentucky.


By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports


LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)—John Calipari has accepted an offer to leave Memphis to coach the tradition-rich Kentucky basketball program, according to reports.

The coach sent a text message to ESPN.com’s Andy Katz on Tuesday evening saying, “I am accepting the UK job! Go Big Blue, coach Cal.”

Calipari spent the day considering the Wildcats’ lucrative offer and calling former Kentucky coaches, including Joe B. Hall.

Hall said the informal chat centered on what it takes to survive one of college basketball’s most prestigious, most scrutinized and most lucrative jobs. Kentucky fired Billy Gillispie last Friday after two disappointing seasons.

The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tenn., first reported the hiring.

The deal Calipari is expected to sign could reach eight years and pay more than $4 million per season, an unidentified source told SI.com.

Tigers walk-on Preston Laird said Calipari met with the team Tuesday afternoon, first as a group and then with individual players, including Laird. The freshman guard described the meeting as very quiet, “Nobody really said anything.”

“He started off by telling us it was the hardest day of his life,” Laird said.

But the guard said Calipari wasn’t very specific.

“He can’t say that he’s taking it, but he said he was probably going to sign the contract,” Laird told a reporter.

Kentucky spokesman DeWayne Peevy would not confirm a deal had been reached.

“I’m waiting on my boss to tell me it’s a done deal,” he said.

University of Memphis spokesman Bob Winn confirmed athletic director R.C. Johnson had spoken with Calipari. Asked if Calipari had told Johnson he was taking the Kentucky job, Winn declined to comment.

“I can confirm that he has told R.C. (Johnson) that he is headed to Lexington, Ky., this evening,” Winn told The Associated Press.

Memphis has scheduled a news conference for noon Wednesday where Johnson will discuss the future of the Memphis basketball program.

Hoping to make a big splash after Gillispie’s tenure, Kentucky is expected to go deep into its pockets to land one of the nation’s most high-profile coaches.

The deal likely would make Calipari the highest-paid coach in the country, eclipsing the $3.5 million average salary of Florida’s Billy Donovan and dwarf those of Calipari’s predecessors Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and Gillispie.

Pitino never made more than $2 million a season during his remarkably successful eight-year run at the school. Smith’s compensation neared $2.1 million at the end of his decade with the program and Gillispie received a base salary of $2.3 million with another $750,000 available in incentives.

The salary nearly triples the $1.6 million salary of Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks, a rarity in a conference where football reigns.

Calipari already was one of the highest-paid coaches in the country, signing an extension with Memphis last year that paid him $2.35 million annually.

Memphis had promised to match whatever Kentucky offers, but the Wildcats have one thing Memphis doesn’t: the opportunity to coach in a top-flight conference at the home of college basketball’s winningest program.

It’ll be seen as money well spent if Calipari can duplicate the success that’s followed him throughout his collegiate coaching career.

He put together turnarounds at Massachusetts and Memphis, winning over 440 games in 17 seasons and leading both schools to a Final Four.

Putting the pieces together at Kentucky might not take long, though the program has plenty of question marks.

The Wildcats went 22-14 this year, missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1991 despite having two of the SEC’s best players in guard Jodie Meeks and forward Patrick Patterson.

Patterson said after the season he’d likely return for his junior year, while Meeks—named a second-team All-American on Monday—was going to take his time on a decision.

Hiring Calipari might be all the incentive they need to return. He won over fans and made over the program at Memphis behind an electrifying style of play that has churned out a handful of NBA players, including Derrick Rose, Shawnae Williams, DaJuan Wagner and Joey Dorsey.

Calipari’s ability to lure some of the nation’s best high school players— regardless of how long they plan on sticking around—has made him an attractive candidate for years.

He’s been able to fight off temptation for nearly a decade, but the chance to makeover one of college basketball’s elite programs proved to be too much.

Mitch Barnhart stressed the need to find a coach who can handle everything that comes along with coaching the Wildcats. Calipari has never met a camera he didn’t like and certainly doesn’t lack confidence: two things Gillispie struggled with during his tenure.

Calipari became the focus after Florida coach Billy Donovan took his name out of the running.

Kentucky received permission to speak to Calipari on Monday, less than 72 hours after Gillispie was fired. Sensing the need to make a home-run hire after the Gillispie debacle, Calipari certainly has the resume and the charm to sate a rabid fan base.

But he also has some baggage. He led Massachusetts to the Final Four in 1996 only to have the school vacate the honor when star Marcus Camby admitted to receiving gifts from a sports agent.

Though Calipari has never been found of wrongdoing by the NCAA, he’s been unable to shed the Camby mess from his reputation and his hire could raise some eyebrows from fans still sensitive over the recruiting violations during the Eddie Sutton era 20 years ago that nearly wrecked the program.

Rick Pitino swooped in to save Kentucky after Sutton left, taking the Wildcats to three Final Fours and a national title in eight years on the sideline.

Neither Gillispie or Tubby Smith have been able to duplicate that success, but neither had the charisma or swagger of Calipari, who now finds himself working an hour east of Pitino.

The two have a long history dating back to when Pitino recommended Calipari for the head coaching job at UMass in 1988. Pitino’s Kentucky team beat Calipari’s UMass squad in the ’96 Final Four and the two have had a testy—at least on the floor—relationship ever since.

The rivalry really began when Pitino took over at Louisville in 2001 as the Cardinals and the Tigers fought with Cincinnati and Marquette for C-USA supremacy. Those three programs left for the Big East in 2005, and Memphis has dominated the conference ever since.

Memphis hasn’t lost a C-USA game since 2006, and the Tigers are the only program in the country to receive either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament in each of the last four years.

Despite their perceived differences, Pitino has little doubt Calipari will be a great fit at Kentucky.

“He’s done a great job at UMass. He’s done a great job at Memphis and he would do a great job at Kentucky if that’s their pick,” Pitino said Tuesday. Press Writers Woody Baird and Beth Rucker in Memphis contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2009 Yahoo! All rights reserved.

4/1/2009~W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio~Meet Alvin Sykes: Civil Rights Cold Case Justice Crusader & I-Witness History: Dr.Steve Hugh Whitaker Interview Part 2


Celebrating 2 Full Years In The Biz: Ain't No Stopping Us Now!!!


April 2009 Theme: Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied...
Air Date: Weds. April 1, 2009
E-mail: r2c2h2@gmail.com
Time: 8PM C/9PM E/6PM P

Listen Live Online:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2009/04/02/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio

Music Video: Emmett Till By Vigalantee
 

Topic 1~Meet Alvin Sykes: Civil Rights Cold Case Justice Crusader
By STEVE PENN The Kansas City Star Oct. 08, 2008 On Tuesday, President Bush signed H.R. 923 without fanfare. With the stroke of the president’s pen, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act became law. The law adds to the growing legend of Alvin Sykes, who was able to achieve what crafty lawyers and influential Washington lobbyists find almost impossible: He persuaded the House and the Senate to agree on something. Watching Congress vote last week on the Wall Street bailout illustrated just how hard that is to accomplish that these days. The legislation , known as the Till Bill, essentially will fund investigations of unsolved homicides from 1970 on back. Sykes not only came up with the idea for the Till Bill, he also helped craft the legislation. The law creates two positions, a special supervisory agent over the civil rights unit of the FBI and a deputy chief of the criminal section of the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department, who will investigate the unsolved cases. The bill also authorizes up to $135 million over 10 years for investigations. Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, put a hold on the legislation for 15 months, but the persuasive Sykes eventually persuaded Coburn to lead the charge for its passage. In the end, Coburn wasn’t pleased that the Senate’s Democratic majority wouldn’t cut other priorities within the federal budget to pay for the bill. But not even those concerns could dull Coburn’s glowing praise for Sykes. “I can’t say enough about his stamina, his integrity, his forthrightness, his determination,” Coburn said of Sykes. “So I come to the floor of the Senate to sing his praises and to recognize him publicly for his tremendous efforts.” The Till Bill is named after Emmett Till, an African-American teenager from Chicago who was beaten and killed Aug. 28, 1955, after he allegedly whistled at a white woman in Mississippi. An all-white jury acquitted Roy Bryant and J.W. Milan, who eventually admitted their involvement to Look magazine. Now that the Till Bill is law, it will create what Sykes calls the greatest criminal manhunt in this country’s history. “We’re hopefully going to find these perpetrators and have them held criminally accountable for their deeds that were done so long ago that they thought they had gotten away with it,” Sykes said. Sykes is a bit disappointed that the president didn’t hold a signing ceremony for the bill at the White House. “We wanted it to be at the White House, so Emmett Till’s family could benefit,” Sykes said. “However, we’re going to do our celebrating of the bill in the courtrooms across America when the cases are prosecuted. We’re already celebrating by striking fear into the hearts of those old men who thought they got away with these crimes.” Sykes’ work inspired a local rapper, Roger Suggs, to create a song called “Emmett Till.” The song can be accessed at www.myspace.com/vigalantee. “I decided to do it in hip-hop form,” Suggs said. “There are many young people who don’t even know about Emmett Till. I hope it makes people run back to the library to learn more about him.” Sykes is an example of a regular guy who has done some remarkable things. He doesn’t have a juris doctorate, a high school diploma or even a GED. However, his victories in the courtroom and now in Congress rival those of many savvy lawyers and statesmen. Sykes can be pushy and a bit of a gadfly sometimes. No one can deny his effectiveness. He’s never let his education limit his dreams or his goals. As a result, Sykes will forever be associated with an important piece of civil rights legislation that passed Congress with unanimous consent. With partisan politics ruling the day, that can’t be minimized or diminished in any way. To reach Steve Penn, call 816-234-4417816-234-4417 or send e-mail to spenn@kcstar.com. © 2009 Kansas City Star and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.kansascity.com  

Visit Alvin Sykes' Official Website:
http://alvinsykes.com/  

Contact An American Civil Rights Veteran Today:
http://www.crmvet.org/

******

 Topic 2: *W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio Exclusive* I-Witness History: Interview With Dr. Hugh Stephen Whitaker Part Two of Two
Bio From EmmettTillMurder.com
 
Dr. Hugh Stephen Whitaker was born in 1939 in Charleston, MS (near Sumner, the site of the Emmett Till murder trial). His stepfather, N.Z. Troutt, was chief of police in Charleston in 1955, and he was appointed as deputy sheriff for the duration of the trial. For his Master’s thesis, submitted to Florida State University in 1963, he wrote “A Case Study in Southern Justice: The Emmett Till Case,” the first book length study of the Emmett Till murder, and the only such source for another twenty-seven years. Whitaker’s thesis is the only one to reference the original trial transcript, in addition to first-hand interviews with many of the trial participants (the sheriff, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and all of the jurors). Two years after receiving his Master's degree, he wrote his doctoral dissertation, “A New Day: The Effects of Negro Enfranchisement in Selected Mississippi Counties” (all of which were in the Mississippi Delta), also submitted to Florida State University. He taught at Temple University, the University of Southern California, and Florida State University. Formerly married to Aide Steele of Tutwiler, he has two daughters, Linda and Heather, and two grandchildren. He is happily married to Penny Young since 2005.
Read Dr. Whitaker’s Thesis A Case Study Of Southern Justice: The Emmett Till Case http://www.emmetttillmurder.com/whitaker-review.htm
Listen To Part One In The Second Hour Of W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio's The Shame Of A Nation...The Emmett Till Legacy: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2009/03/12/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio More On W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio:
A Great Profile Of Civil Rights Cold Case Justice Crusader Alvin Sykes... http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2009/03/great-profile-of-civil-rights-cold-case.html
W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio Special~Meet Alvin Sykes: Civil Rights Cold Case Justice Crusader... http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2009/04/02/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio
W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio Special: The Shame Of A Nation...The Emmett Till Legacy http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2009/03/12/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio See More Emmett Till On W.E. A.L.L. B.E.: FBI Report: Woman Emmett Till 'Whistled' @ Still Alive... http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/09/fbi-report-woman-emmett-till-whistled.html What I Will Teach My Black Son To Fear.... http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2006/12/what-i-will-teach-my-black-son-to-fear.html Park In Honor Of Emmett Till Opens Friday Sept. 19, 2008, in Mississippi... http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/09/park-in-honor-of-emmett-till-opens.htmlmett-till-opens.html Mississippi Comes Face To Face With Brutal Past In Emmett Till Exhibit... http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/03/mississippi-comes-face-to-face-with.html Tha Artivist Remembers Ernest Withers (1922-2007)... http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2007/11/tha-artivist-remembers-ernest-withers.html Mississippi Still Burning Like Southern California... http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2007/10/mississippi-still-burning-like-southern.html No Justice, Just Us For EMMETT... http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2007/03/no-justice-just-us-for-emmett.html
**** Get Involved As Always You Can Catch Tha Artivist Presents…W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio Live Every Wednesday In 2009 @ 8PM Central By Clicking On The Following Link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe Please Be Our Invited Guest By Calling Us Live @ 646-652-4593646-652-4593 Or E-mailing Us Your Questions And Comments @ r2c2h2@gmail.com
As Always Please Spread The Good News!!!
See Also...
Check Out W.E. A.L.L. B.E. TV!!!
W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special:Reflections On The 2009 Inauguration Part One: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2009/01/23/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio
W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special: Yes He Did...So Now What??? Defining The Obama Presidency... http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2008/11/16/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio
W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special:O Yes We Did!!! The Barack Obama Tribute... http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2008/11/09/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special: Barack Obama & The Hip Hop Effect On American Politics: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2008/02/10/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-Radio

~~~~~~

To see or rather "hear" how far W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio has come please listen to the first broadcast, Jan. 7, 2007: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2007/01/07/tha-artivist-presents
Also check out how good we were in "2008 a.k.a. The Year Of Citizen Radio": http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2009/01/we-all-be-news-radio-made-2008-year-of.html
~~~~~~ *Support W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio!!!* The W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Needing Funds Drive For W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Begins... http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/12/we-all-be-needing-funds-drive-for-we.html W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Supporting W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio: Buy Art & Gear For 'The Cause' Today!!! http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/12/we-all-be-supporting-we-all-be-news.html
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~~~~~~ Celebrate Black History And Love All Day Every Day With Works By Tha Artivist: http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2008/02/celebrate-black-history-and-love-all.html
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Giant @ Rest: Dr. John Hope Franklin (1915-2009)


A lifelong academic, Franklin wrote works that remain staples on college reading lists. In 1995, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)


John Hope Franklin, left, who was thrust into a role as social activist, speaks with President Bill Clinton, right, and members of the race advisory board. (White House)



Franklin knew many famed figures of the black struggle in the 1950s and '60s, including Martin Luther King Jr. (By Jim Bounds -- News & Observer)


Tha Artivist And Dr. John Hope Franklin

Historian Helped Blaze A Civil Rights Path



Portrait by Simmie Knox


By Wil Haygood
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 26, 2009; A01

John Hope Franklin, one of the most prolific and well-respected chroniclers of America's torturous racial odyssey, died of congestive heart failure yesterday at the age of 94 in a Durham, N.C., hospital.

It was more than Franklin's voluminous writings that cemented his reputation among academics, politicians and civil rights figures as an inestimable historian. It was the reality that Franklin, himself a black man, had seen racial horrors up close and thus was able to give his academic work a stinging ballast. Franklin was a young boy when his family lost everything in the Tulsa race riot of 1921. The violence was precipitated by reports that a black youth assaulted a white teenage girl in a downtown elevator. In the end more than 40 people died, mostly blacks, although some reports put the death total much higher.

Franklin was among the first black scholars to earn prominent posts at America's top -- and predominantly white -- universities. His research and his personal success helped pave the way both for other blacks and for the field of black studies, which began to blossom on American campuses in the '60s.

In time, a second generation of eminent black scholars -- Harvard's Henry Louis Gates Jr., Georgetown's Michael Eric Dyson and Princeton's Cornel West -- would follow Franklin to the heights of America's most illustrious schools.

"He gave us a common language," Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, said yesterday. "As the author of a seminal textbook, 'From Slavery to Freedom,' Franklin gave us young black scholars a common language to speak to each other. He had invented a genre out of whole cloth."

Gates, a former recipient of a MacArthur "genius grant," for years was curious as to who had recommended him. He attended a dinner once with Franklin, and Franklin confided that he had been the one to recommend Gates. "And I cried at the table we were sitting at. A lot of us called John Hope 'the Prince.' He had such a regal bearing. We're all the children of John Hope."

Over the course of his career, Franklin taught at Duke, Harvard and the University of Chicago, and would regale friends with the joy he had teaching at Cambridge University in England. Among his many honors was the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which President Bill Clinton bestowed upon him in 1995.

Franklin's life became so celebrated in his later years, and his testimony at congressional hearings so frequent, that he seemed almost a fictional figure, a combination of Booker T. Washington and Mark Twain. "I could not have avoided being a social activist even if I had wanted to," Franklin once said.

Among Franklin's more popular works, many of which remain constants on college reading lists, are "From Slavery to Freedom" (with Alfred Moss Jr.), "The Emancipation Proclamation," "Reconstruction After the Civil War," "A Southern Odyssey: Travelers in the Antebellum North" and "The Militant South, 1800-1861."

John Hope Franklin was born Jan. 2, 1915, in Rentiesville, Okla. His father, Buck, was a lawyer and the first black judge to sit on an Oklahoma district court.

Franklin attended Fisk University, a historically black college, and received his undergraduate degree in 1935. He earned both a master's and doctorate from Harvard University. From there it was an academic career full of highlights, fellowships, research stints and publications. He was a professor at Howard University from 1947 to 1956. His rising reputation caught the eye of Brooklyn College, which named him chairman of its history department. The appointment was met in the black press with an exuberance usually reserved for black sports figures. Franklin had become the first black person to chair a history department at a college that was not historically black.

But it was in the arena of politics and social activism that Franklin carved a new niche for himself. He provided important historical research to NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer Thurgood Marshall in the historic Brown v. Board of Education case that outlawed school segregation. A new generation of young Americans would witness Franklin's testimony during the unsuccessful nomination of Robert Bork for a seat on the Supreme Court.

In his long life, Franklin rubbed shoulders with many of the most famous figures from the black struggle in 1950s and 1960s America: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson and Marshall. He also lived in many of the cities that experienced tumultuous racial clashes. In a 2005 interview with The Washington Post, Franklin recalled living in Montgomery, Ala., in the 1940s: "In the liquor store, you would use the same clerk as the whites, but walking up to the clerk, there was a wall that separated you from the white person. So all you saw was that white person's hand."

In that same interview, Franklin talked about going to Richmond in 1947 to donate blood to his sick brother. Afterward, Franklin boarded a bus and sat in the whites-only section. He told the driver he had just given blood and was too tired to move; the driver threatened arrest. "The blacks were yelling at me: 'Stand your ground!' And you know what? That bus driver drove on off with me sitting right there."

Word of Franklin's death quickly swept throughout the academic community yesterday. Eileen Mackevich, executive director of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, first met Franklin in the late 1960s while doing graduate study in Illinois. "He taught me about race, about life, about communicating with people in respect to their differences," she said. "I am white, but he taught me things I never would have understood about race even though I've lived most of my life in integrated communities."

She continued: "I think a lot of white institutions congratulated themselves for hiring him as the first or second African American historian. But in the end, he made them feel honored to have him because of what he did for the faculty, the students and the neighborhood."

Franklin was married to Aurelia Whittington, his college sweetheart, who died in 1999. They are survived by their son, John Whittington Franklin. Aside from his family and his intellectual pursuits, Franklin also loved orchids. He was devoted to raising them. "There is even an orchid named after him," Gates said.

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