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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.