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"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.