Albert Sykes is the Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Young People’s Project (YPP). Growing up in the Shady Oaks community in Jackson, Mississippi and around the corner from where NAACP leader and civil rights activist Medgar Evers lived and died has been one of Albert’s driving forces in doing the work needed to move Mississippi and our nation forward. Becoming a student of the Algebra Project and a mentee of Bob Moses brought Evers into Albert’s life and made his sacrifices tangible to the young pre-teen. Sykes gained firsthand knowledge and understanding of Black Mississippi’s struggle for justice, equity and full citizenship.
Among the heroes and sheroes Sykes is proud to have learned from are: Hollis Watkins, Chokwe Lumumba, Bobby Talbert, Willie Peacock, Janet Moses, Lawrence Guyot, Dorie Ladner, Flonzie Brown Wright, Dave Dennis and Frankye Adams-Johnson. Sykes is a lifelong Jacksonian and describes Mississippi as “still trudging the path to becoming the mecca of beauty that Medgar Evers said it would be.”
Sykes is a staunch believer in the power and energy of young people in advocacy and movement building. This can be traced directly to his participation in the Young People’s Project, where from an early age he has been involved in sustaining a space for young people to learn from and teach to each other. Though YPP offered Albert a place to grow in classroom and community leadership in math, he saw Bob Moses’ story and work in Mississippi as an example of how those same skills could be used to solve community issues that are identified by young people, thus leading him to become the founding director of YPP’s Policy and Advocacy program. Sykes advocates for policies such as Quality Education is a Constitutional Right and works in conjunction with many organizations, which includes the NAACP, where he is a member of the Statewide Education Committee; the Wisdom Foundation, serving as the board president; and the United Way of Jackson among others. In Mississippi, Albert is helping to lead the growth and development of a new statewide cadre of math literacy workers and young political organizers.
Over the past decade, Sykes has served as an organizer for many projects and events, including the Finding Our Folk Tour, The Gathering for Justice with Harry Belafonte, and The Take Back America Conference. This organizer also served as national co-chair of the Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary Youth Leadership Summit in Mississippi. Sykes has been active in the development of ITVS’ Masculinity Project content sponsored by the Ford Foundation.
Albert had the honor of being one of the speakers at the SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference alongside Bob Moses and addressed the likes of Julian Bond, Marion Barry, and a host of other civil rights warriors on behalf of young people all across the country. This Mississippian developed the classroom curriculum for “Barack and Curtis,” a film by acclaimed director Byron Hurt. Albert has been a speaker both locally and nationally around issues of education, Black male achievement and mentoring along with various other issues. He recently received the 2014 Humanitarian Award from the Jackson State University Fannie Lou Hamer Institute @ COFO.
Currently, Sykes serves as an organizer for the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA) and as a national trainer for the Children’s Defense Fund’s Young Advocate Leadership Training (YALT). Albert has recently been named the Youth and Education Director for The Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, Inc. and serves as a co-chair for the Youth Congress track for the Mississippi Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary Conference. He is currently working on an advocacy curriculum for young people. Albert has been selected as a September 2014 fellowship and residency at Brown University to continue the development of policy activities for high school and college aged youth.