KANSAS CITY, MO — Three individuals and one local human rights commission were honored for their continual advocacy for the advancements of human rights Friday, Nov. 4, at the Fifth Annual Missouri Human Rights Conference celebrating International Human Rights Day in Kansas City.
“These individuals exemplify the characteristics of Missourians working for positive change in our state, and their actions serve to inspire us all,” said Alisa Warren, Executive Director of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. “Having a law on the books doesn’t stop discrimination or ensure equality, which is why we continue to fight to protect the fundamental right of every Missourian to live free from discrimination.”
The following awards were presented at this year’s conference:
Judge Arnold Krekel Trailblazer Award: Cynthia Cordes
Cynthia L. Cordes is a partner at Husch Blackwell, LLP and former Assistant U.S. Attorney and Human Trafficking Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Missouri. Cordes has prosecuted more human trafficking cases than any other Assistant U.S. Attorney in the country. In 2013, she launched a human trafficking legal clinic at Husch Blackwell, LLP, which offers free legal representation to victims of human trafficking.
The Judge Arnold Krekel Trailblazer Award honors individuals or organizations that show passion for civil rights and equal justice. The award’s namesake was an ardent abolitionist whose passion for equality led to his signing the historic 1865 ordinance abolishing slavery in Missouri.
Human Rights Champion Award: Alvin Sykes
Alvin Sykes is President of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign and has been a human rights advocate for more than four decades. He is currently a Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority Board Commissioner. Mr. Sykes co-founded and served as president of the Justice Campaign of America, is a charter member of the Kansas City National Black United Front, and is a lifetime member of the Social Action Committee of 20. Mr. Sykes has received several national and international awards for his dedication to justice.
The Human Rights Champion Award is presented to an individual who is committed and made great strides to bring about positive change for advancing human rights.
Local Human Rights Commission of the Year: Lee’s Summit Human Relations Commission
The Lee’s Summit Human Relations Commission’s mission is to promote mutual understanding, respect, and inclusion among all diverse groups represented in Lee’s Summit through the implementation of education and civic standards. The Commission recently completed a community survey and diversity report. After identifying areas to improve, the Commission is streamlining its fair housing complaint process and addressing fair housing issues in the community. The Commission also recently launched a new website and increased its social media presence to enhance communication to the community.
The Local Human Rights Commission of the Year is presented to commissions in communities across Missouri that have gone above and beyond to address local human rights issues as a means to improve the quality of life for its community.
Lucile Bluford Lifetime Achievement Award: Joanne Collins
Joanne M. Collins is a full-time volunteer and member of fifteen nonprofit organizations, currently chairing four of those organizations and serving on ten of their Boards of Directors. Ms. Collins actively recruits and supports minorities and women for elective and appointed public offices, while encouraging young people to serve as volunteers. She has held numerous appointments, including serving as a Kansas City Council Member-at-Large for seventeen years as the Finance and Audit Committee Chair, Mayor Pro-tem and Acting Mayor.
The Lucile Bluford Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an individual who has dedicated their life’s work to advance human rights in their communities and throughout the state. The award’s namesake was a well-respected editor and publisher of the Kansas City Call and a persistent civil rights activist who strove to break down injustices against African Americans in higher education.
The Missouri Human Rights Conference brings together individuals and organizations from the local, state and federal levels to discuss current issues and best practices to advance human rights, so all Missourians can live and work free from unlawful discrimination.
MCHR is an independent commission housed in the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. MCHR’s mission is to encourage foster mutual understanding and respect among groups protected by the Missouri Human Rights Act and to discourage discrimination against them, which MCHR pursues through its education and outreach efforts and administrative complaint process. MCHR investigates complaints of discrimination in housing, employment and places of public accommodations based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, age (in employment only), and familial status (in housing only). For more about MCHR, visit https://labor.mo.gov/mohumanrights/discrimination.