National Human Rights Leader Alvin Sykes Calls
For Expansion of Emmett Till Act
Kansas City Human Rights Activist Alvin Sykes, along with the late Mamie Till Mobley co-founded the Emmett Till Justice Campaign (ETJC) of which he is President will attend the 60th Anniversary Commemorative Celebration of the Legacy of Emmett Till (1955-2015) this weekend, August 28 – 30 in Chicago, Illinois as the special guest of the Mamie Till Mobley Foundation. Sykes is recognized as the “force behind” the re-opening of the Emmett Till murder case and the creation and passage of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007 (commonly referred to as the “Till Bill”).
Sykes, who served from 2002 as Mamie Till Mobley’s official victim’s advocate to law enforcement agencies involved in her son’s unsolved murder case, is scheduled participate as a panelist for the YOUth EmPOWERment Day sessions held at the Reva & David Logan Center for the Arts. The panel, “Emmett Till Lives – The Power of a Mother’s Story” will also include U.S. Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill), Wheeler Parker (Emmett’s cousin who was with him the night he died), author Christopher Benson, and filmmaker Raymond Thomas, among others.
Benson, who co-authored the book, “The Death of Innocence – The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America” with Till’s mother, stated, “Alvin connected with Mrs. Mobley the last week of her life and in that short experience has been able to continue to keep her story alive, and has inspired a strong, positive social policy.”
As part of his presentation, Sykes will discuss plans for the drafting and introduction of legislation for a proposed newly named “Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights and Federal Crimes Act (“Till Bill 2”) to become a permanent law with no sunset provision. The bill would, in part, expand the scope of the current Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act to include select unsolved federal crimes, in addition to unsolved civil rights crimes, and would provide funding for grants to states and local law enforcement agencies to investigate and/or prosecute said unsolved crimes. The expanded bill would also provide Justice Grants to governmental and non-governmental organizations that help investigations, raise public awareness and support through media outlets, social media, and public event activities to find potential cases, evidence and witnesses.
“The overall lessons learned from our successful campaigns to re-open Till’s murder case and for passage of the Till Act,” says Sykes, “leads us to the conclusion that there exists an urgent need nationwide for a permanent cold case infrastructure to augment state and federal law enforcement efforts in partnership with community based justice-seeking efforts to solve certain lingering, unsolved crimes.” Sykes asserts, “The passage of time can no longer serve as effective get-away accomplices to the perpetrators of these terrible crimes.”
Other planned commemorative activities include the Till Family Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the gravesites of Emmett Till, Mamie Till Mobley and Alma Spearman at Burr Oak Cemetery on Friday, August 28 from 12Noon – 2pm, followed by the “Legacy Lives – Emmett Till Remembrance” Dinner (6pm) at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Plaza. A special “Gospel Regeneration” church service will take place on Sunday, August 30 at 3 pm at the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ. Special guests include Rev. Jesse Jackson, Father Michael Pflager of St. Sabina and Rev. Al Sharpton.
Alvin Sykes is a Kansas City, Kansas native, who is self-taught, and has won many honors and cases. He was most recently named a Scholar in Residence at the Kansas City Public Library, where he has spent countless hours in public libraries reading and researching. He has re-opened two civil rights cold cases, one the high-profile murder of Chicago teenager Emmett Till, and the 1980 murder of Kansas City musician Steve Harvey. His work has changed state and federal civil rights laws.
His research into unsolved civil and human rights abuses has earned Sykes a reputation nationally and internationally. In 2007, he testified in Congress in support of what would become the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act – a law that allowed the authorities to re-open cold cases.
Details of the Proposed “Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights and Federal Crimes Act” (referred to as Till Bill 2)
Changes to a reauthorized “Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007” to include, but not be limited to:
– Revise name to read “Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights and Federal Crimes Act”
– Become a permanent law with no sunset provision
– Have no time limit for potential cases that can be investigated in the past or future
-Not be jurisdictionally limited to racially motivated murders instead will expand to cover selected potential federal crimes which the statute of limitations has not expired and/or potential federal crimes for which the statute of limitation has
expired but there exist a potential state crime where the statute of limitation has not expired.
-Funding for grants to state and local law enforcement agencies who choose to investigate and/or prosecute any unsolved crime under it’s jurisdiction and the statute of limitation has not expired.
-Provide Justice Grants to governmental and non-governmental organizations, private investigative agencies, educational institutions,documentary filmmakers, investigative reporters, etc. that will help in investigations and raise public awareness and support through media outlets, social media, and public event activities to find potential cases, evidence and witnesses.
– Continue authorization for federal Inspector Generals to provide assistance to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children with their backlog of unsolved cases.
Emmett Louis Till Back Story
Emmett Louis Till (July 25, 1941-August 28, 1955) was an African American teenager was brutally murdered and his body mutilated in Mississippi at the age of 14, after reportedly whistling at a white woman. Till was from Chicago, Illinois, but was visiting his relatives in Money, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta region, when he spoke to 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the married proprietor of a small grocery store there. Several nights later Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother, J. W. Milan, went to Till’s great-uncle’s house. They took Till away, awakening him from sleeping in his bed, where they beat him and gouged out one of his eyes before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River, weighting it with a 70-pound cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire.
Three days later, Till’s body was discovered and retrieved from the river, and was returned to Chicago. His mother, Mamie Till Mobley, who had raised him mostly by herself, insisted on a public funeral service, with an open casket to show the world the brutality of the killing. The open-coffin funeral held by his mother exposed the world to more than her son’s bloated, mutilated body. Her decision focused attention not only on American racism but also on the limitations and vulnerabilities of American democracy.
Tens of thousands attended his funeral or viewed his casket, and images of his mutilated body were published in black-oriented magazines and newspapers, rallying popular black support and white sympathy across the U.S. Intense scrutiny was brought to bear on the condition of black civil rights in Mississippi, with newspapers around the country critical of the state.
Although initially local newspapers and law enforcement officials decried the violence against Till and called for justice. they soon began responding to national criticism by defending Mississippians, which eventually transformed into support for the killers.
In September 1955, Bryant and Milam were aquitted of Till’s kidnapping and murder. Protected against double jeapardy, Bryant and Milam publicly admitted in an interview with Look Magazine that they killed Till. Problems identifying Till affected the trial, partially leading to Bryant’s and Milam’s acquittals, and the case was officially reopened by the African American Civil Rights Movement in 2004 led by Human Rights Activist Alvin Sykes. As part of the investigation, the body was exhumed and autopsied resulting in a positive identification. He was reburied in a new casket, which is the standard practice in cases of body exhumation. His original casket was donated to the Smithsonian Institution.
The trial of Bryant and Milam attracted a vast amount of press attention. Till’s murder is noted as a pivotal event motivating the African American Civil Rights Movement. Events surrounding Emmett Till’s life and death, according to historians, continue to resonate with several books, movies and forums.