Albert Sykes is the executive director of the Institute for Democratic Education in America, or IDEA. This native son of Mississippi has a powerful personal story, one that is rooted in the struggles and search for quality education through community organizing and youth advocacy. A proud father of three sons, Albert grew up in the Shady Oaks community one street way from where NAACP member and civil-rights activist Medgar Evers lived and died. Evers has been one of Albert’s guiding lights in doing the work needed to move Mississippi and our nation forward.
Becoming a student of the Algebra Project and a mentee of civil-rights hero Bob Moses brought Evers into Albert’s life and made his sacrifices tangible to the then-teenager. In Mississippi, Albert has also helped lead the growth and development of a new statewide cadre of math literacy workers and young political organizers. Albert, whose National Public Radio StoryCorps story was ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2015, has also been quoted in the Huffington Post. Albert received a policy and social justice residency at Brown University in 2014. He is also a 2014 recipient of the Fannie Lou Hamer Social Justice Award from the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, along with now-national NAACP President Derrick Johnson and deceased former Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba.
Albert wrote an article entitled “And They Came: The Lineage of Freedom,” for the Souls Journal, A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society, published by the Taylor & Francis Group. Albert works on both the local and national level around critical issues such as education reform, zero-tolerance policies and the school-to-prison pipeline. He advocates for policies such as quality education as a constitutional right and works in conjunction with many organizations, including the NAACP Mississippi state chapter, where he serves on the Statewide Education Committee.
Prior to serving as the executive director of IDEA, Albert was the director of policy and advocacy for the Young People’s Project, of which he was a part of starting and growing. He also led the organizing efforts of the National Youth Congress for the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer in Jackson and helped organize the “Finding Our Folk Tour” in response to Hurricane Katrina. He has been active in the development of Independent Television Services’ “The Masculinity Project,” which the Ford Foundation sponsored, and helped organize events with organizations such as the Gathering for Justice with Harry Belafonte and the Take Back America Conference.
Albert served as national co-chair of the Freedom Riders 50th anniversary Youth Leadership Summit in Mississippi. He developed the classroom curriculum for “Barack and Curtis,” a film from acclaimed director Byron Hurt. Through these experiences, this Mississippian has gained much firsthand knowledge and understanding of black Mississippi’s struggle for justice, equity and full citizenship. Albert is helping with current efforts against a state takeover of the Jackson Public School District and also served as the local chair of the annual North Dakota Study Group local gathering in Jackson, Miss., in 2019, which focused on race and equity in education through an immersion in Mississippi history.