Brooks hopes his memoir, “Binding Us Together: A Civil Rights Activist Reflects on a Lifetime of Community and Public Service” can help revitalize the glory days of Kansas City’s Black community.

When 88-year-old Kansas City activist Alvin Brooks was in high school, he remembers the countless Black-owned businesses that lined the streets of the 18th and Vine district. From Black-owned hotels, car dealerships, pharmacies and doctor’s offices, the jazz district was flourishing.

“We lost all that, but here we are. What we can do today is make the most of what we have and I think that some of that culture we can bring back,” Brooks said at a talk kicking of the release of his memoir, “Binding Us Together: A Civil Rights Activist Reflects on a Lifetime of Community and Public Service,” held at the Black Archives of Mid-America on Tuesday. 

“Kicking off my memoir, I think it is another step in the direction of bringing that whole period back.”

His many stories about the adversities he has faced in his life as a Black man and public servant, his family, God and helping to heal the racial divide after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. are all detailed in his memoir. 

A fighter for racial equity in Kansas City throughout his life, through his work as a police officer, detective, city councilman and founder of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, Brooks has had a profoundly positive impact on Kansas City.

At the Black Archives, Brooks told some of the stories from his memoir to a crowd of about 25 people who listened intently.

One story he tells is about being falsely accused by a White woman of a robbery while he was in cadet school in 1954. Luckily, his sergeant was with him at the time of the robbery, vouching for his whereabouts.

“If I hadn’t had that White sergeant as my witness, I would not be standing here before you. I probably would have done 10 or 15 years and never been able to do anything worthwhile,” Brooks said. “That was in 1954. Press fast forward. Is there any difference in 2021? Not a lot. So, we’ve come full circle.”

One unforgettable trait that Brooks has is his extraordinary memory. He can recall dates and stories from his past with precision and detail. At the conclusion of his Black Archives presentation, Brooks quoted by memory, one of his favorite poems, “God’s Minute,” by Benjamin Mays says:

I only have a minute.

Sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, I did not choose it,

But I know that I must use it.

Give account if I abuse it.

Suffer, if I lose it.

Only a tiny little minute,

But eternity is in it.

“Life is only a minute and every 60 seconds we get a new lease on life,” Brooks concluded. “What will you do with the minute you have? I hope that you will today, henceforth, and forevermore think of something that you can do to make this city, your family, this community, this world, a better place.”

Brooks’ memoir, “Binding Us Together,” is now available for purchase at the Black Archives gift shop or online here:

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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