Archive for Mary Rupert

Local activist and others take a new look at the Emmett Till case

KCK man persistently works on advancing civil rights hate-crimes enforcement

by Mary Rupert

The Rev. Wheeler Parker, in the Kansas City area recently for a church conference, was surprised when he heard on the news that an accuser of Emmett Till had changed her story.

Parker was a cousin of Emmett Till who went on the train with him from Chicago to Mississippi in 1955 to visit relatives. While at a store in Mississippi, Emmett Till allegedly whistled at a white woman. The news that the woman recanted her statement that Till grabbed her came out earlier this year.

Till, 14 years old at the time, was the victim of a lynching, brutally kidnapped and murdered. The Emmett Till death is considered to be one of the incidents that launched the civil rights movement in America. Parker was a teenager with Emmett at the time the woman originally told authorities that she had been assaulted, and some are wondering if the decades-old case now can be solved.

“Of course, it was good news for me to hear,” Parker said in an interview during his visit to Kansas City. “Now people can see Emmett Till in a different light than 60 years ago.”

For 60 years, some people thought that Emmett “got what he deserved,” but now it turns out that the woman lied, he added.

“Now America knows the truth – he did nothing to assault her,” Parker said. “So we’re glad to get that closure.”

Maybe, he added, if they can get that information from her, the authorities can get more information on the case from her. Most of those sorts of cases are never solved, and some people in the past have got away with crimes, he said. He and some others in the case support immunity for the woman in exchange for her information.

The woman in the case is now in her 80s, and the others involved in the Till case are senior citizens, as well.

A minister in the Pentecostal Church of God, Parker said people are called to forgive. However, he added that “we can’t afford to forget.”

Besides sparking the civil rights movement, the Till case greatly affected all the individuals involved. Till’s mother went back to school, got her master’s degree and dedicated her life to doing good because of what happened to her son, he said.

“It changed me, I became a minister,” Parker said. He dedicated his life to doing good, “because you can never forget.”

Parker called for more outreach on civil rights issues on the part of the clergy. “We’ve got to have some outreach among pastors about what’s happening to our people,” Parker said.

With the Till Bill 2 – the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Reauthorization Act of 2016 – that Kansas City, Kansas, human rights activist Alvin Sykes has been working on, a mechanism has been set up to investigate cold civil rights hate crimes. Parker credited Sykes’ work in getting the bill passed last year.

Parker said this seeking after justice is Sykes’ calling in life. “This is his area of expertise,” Parker said. “He has a fire in his belly.

“I tip my hat to him,” Parker said. “He doesn’t give up.”

Said Sykes, “The poison of Emmett’s death didn’t overcome him (Parker); he used it for a very positive life.”

The changing landscape

Alvin Sykes (File photo)

The landscape is changing in different ways for Sykes and his efforts to solve old civil rights hate crimes in America.

Sykes, a human rights activist in Kansas City, Kansas, who is president of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, plans to meet with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, on Tuesday, March 28, in Washington, D.C., to discuss implementation of the Till Bill 2 at the Justice Department.

His work was not completed when the Till Bill passed Congress – it also needs to be implemented by the administration, which now has changed.

Sykes said he is asking the Justice Department to prioritize the Till Bill 2, and he wants to work with the attorney general’s office in developing a strategy for its implementation. Before, he said, there wasn’t much coordination between those working in the field and a strategy of how to implement it.

The main goal of the March 28 meeting is to open the lines of communication, he said. Some real issues may be discussed after the chief assistant attorney general for civil rights is appointed, he added.

Sykes is not just working on legislation in Washington, D.C., however. He also was working recently with State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., on Senate Bill 128 in the Kansas Senate. This bill could double the penalties for hate crimes. The bill has been introduced in previous years and had its third hearing this year.

With a possible hate-crime link to a recent shooting in Olathe, Kansas, there was renewed interest in this bill, according to Sykes. He said since most of the acts of bias-motivated crimes are not murders, but are lesser crimes such as vandalism or assault, a lot of times they are not prosecuted. By increasing the penalties for these crimes, it makes the clear statement they won’t be tolerated, he said. He’s working on other bills, as well.

For Sykes, much of his effort is all about finding the truth, and getting closure, after so many years.

“He has no ulterior motive,” Parker said. “He just wants to see.”

To see an earlier story, visit

Mayoral candidate Jordan speaks out about taxes

Keith Jordan

by Mary Rupert

Lower property taxes for residents was one of the issues mentioned by mayoral challenger Keith Jordan.

Jordan, 42, who has filed for Kansas City, Kansas-Wyandotte County mayor and CEO, is new to the political arena, not having sought political office previously. He faces incumbent Mayor Mark Holland and challenger David Alvey.

Jordan is well-known to the radio audience of KQRC-FM, 98.9, The Rock, where he is on the morning Johnny Dare show under the name, “T-Bone.” Jordan says he has mentioned his candidacy on the radio show, and he added that other candidates have the opportunity to come onto the radio and talk about their campaigns.

Jordan, who lives in the Turner School District, said he is interested in working for a better quality of life for residents. He thinks businesses such as those in Village West should be paying more to the local government for the services they receive, and he added that some of the businesses have not fulfilled their agreements with the UG.

“It seems like we’re concentrating all our money in the Village West area,” Jordan said. “You could go anywhere in downtown KCK and find improvements that need to be made. We’re giving a lot of these companies breaks on things.”

He mentioned sinkholes in the Turner area, where a street is closed off, as improvements that need to be made, and he said there are probably many places in the city where road improvements are needed. He said he also supports efforts to revitalize deteriorating areas of Kansas City, Kansas.

Although the STAR (sales tax revenue) bonds at Village West were paid off early, Jordan said he really hasn’t noticed any of the tax breaks residents were promised years ago.

“Why are we so in debt if we have our STAR bonds being paid off and paid off early?” Jordan asked.

“I’ve seen years of KCK going downhill a little, coming back up in some spots, and going back downhill again,” he said. “The people in charge are ignoring some of the areas that need to be worked on. As a citizen, I feel they look at KCK as The Legends and Village West, and that’s where it ends. We see improvements there, and at KU Med Center, but in between there is nothing – a huge area of the city that is not being taken care of, their voice is not being heard.”

Jordan said he would like to see if there is a way to get some of the big businesses such as those at Village West to pay more to the UG. He would like to re-examine the UG contracts and agreements with these businesses. The mayor should be representing the people who live in the city, he said.

He added he does not support cuts in basic services in order to reduce property taxes.

Although there may be some administrative items that might be cut, he said he supports funding for services such as fire and police. There has been talk of consolidating fire stations here, and the national response time is about four minutes.

“KCK has a two-minute response time. Why would we want to lay off some of our firefighters and consolidate the boundaries if we already have a two-minute response time?” Jordan asked. He is a certified EMT who served as a volunteer firefighter in Edwardsville for about nine years.

“If we start cutting down our responders, we’re just hurting ourselves,” Jordan said. “One thing I learned, in emergency situations, time is of the essence. If the national average is four minutes and we’re at two, why drop it to four and put citizens at danger? To me that makes no sense.”

Jordan doubted that a new juvenile detention center would be a good use of the taxpayers’ money. Instead of a new building, he said he would rather see programs to work with youth and turn them around, instead of locking them up in a detention center.

“With a detention center, we give up too easily on kids,” he said. “Most of them that go into the detention center at an early age, it kills them, they think this is what it will be for the rest of their life, and they end up repeating the pattern,” he said.

Jordan said one difference between him and the other candidates would be that he is running his campaign on a very small budget. He plans to meet with people face-to-face and talk to voters. He also plans to use social media such as Facebook to get his message out.

Jordan is a graduate of Turner High School and has an associate degree in liberal arts from Kansas City Kansas Community College. He has spent almost his entire life as a resident of the Turner district.

He has been very involved with youth sports, where he coached soccer in the Midwest Regional League. He also has helped with sports at the Turner Recreation Center.

He has volunteered with Harvesters and the Kids Café program, helping to feed kids in the summer. Jordan also is active in the Masons and Abdallah Shriners.

Jordan filed for office under “D. Keith Jordan,” and said he usually doesn’t use his first name, Dennis.

The primary election is in August this year, and the general election will be in November. The filing deadline is noon June 1.

Mayoral contest picks up another candidate; commissioner races heat up

by Mary Rupert

Filings from the Wyandotte County Election Commissioner’s Office showed a third person has filed for mayor, and some Unified Government Commission races have opposition.

D. Keith Jordan has filed for mayor-CEO of the UG, according to the election commissioner’s office. That brings to three the number of persons filing for mayor, by 3 p.m. today. Earlier, Incumbent Mayor Mark Holland and challenger David Alvey filed for mayor.

In addition, the 2nd District at-large UG Commissioner position now has two candidates in the wake of incumbent Commissioner Hal Walker saying he would not be a candidate.

State Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-33rd Dist., and John “J.D.” Rios have filed for UG Commissioner at large, 2nd District. Burroughs was the Kansas House minority leader last year, while Rios is the chairman of the Kansas City Kansas Community College Board of Trustees.

Fifth District UG Commissioner Mike Kane, the incumbent, has opposition from Sarah Kremer, according to the election commissioner’s office.

Jim Walters, a UG commissioner from the 7th District, has filed, according to the election commissioner’s office.

Other candidates who have filed include Mary Gonzales, incumbent, BPU at-large position 1; and Maria Cecilia Ysaac, Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education.

The filing deadline is noon June 1.