Black leaders and city and county officials will celebrate the birthday of Malcolm X in Annapolis Sunday.

"The significance of that isincredible," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, one of two black City Council members. "He was such a controversial figure."

Leslie Stanton, acting chairman of the Black Political Forum, which is sponsoring the celebration, said the group chose to honor Malcolm X, the militant black leader who was assassinated 26 years ago, because of his values and vision.

"He was a family man who was very committed to the community," Stanton said. "He overcame drugs and gave something back to the community. When people begin to look at Malcolm, they see he wasn't anti-white, but pro-human.

"He was one of the first to be vehemently anti-drug. He was a visionary. He saw what drugs would do to blacks. He was a very strong man, very direct and confrontational, but he was also very compassionate and concerned about his fellow man. Those are the values we want our young people to emulate."

Lewis Bracy, a forum member and president of Blacks for Success, sees a pattern in Malcolm X's life that is repeated in the lives of young blacks today.

Growing up in Nebraska and Michigan, Malcolm Little was one of the top students in his class and was elected president of his seventh-grade class despite being the only black student.

According to Alex Haley's Autobiography of Malcolm X, an eighth-grade teacher once asked him what he wanted to do for a living. Malcolm said he wanted to become a lawyer. His teacher discouraged him, saying, "A lawyer -- that's no realistic goal for a nigger. You need to think about something you can be."

"You shouldn't -- a young man's dreams like that," Bracy said. "That's something that still goes on."

Malcolm eventually went to New York City and became involved in drugs and crime before going to prison on robbery charges in 1946. It was in prison that he was introduced to the teachings of ElijahMuhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam. He went to work for the movement upon leaving prison and took the Muslim last name "X," rejecting the name given his ancestors by slave owners.

Two years before his death, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam, disillusioned with the movement, and made a pilgrimage to Mecca. He became an orthodox Muslim and began preaching racial unity,while saying blacks should become involved in politics, start their own businesses and maintain their African roots. He called for a United Nations investigation into U.S. racism and threatened violence to end segregation.

Bracy said he hopes young people learn from Malcolm X's story that there is more to life than the fast money that comes from selling drugs. "Kids don't understand that they're in this for the long haul," he said. "They want the quick fix, the quick money."

The celebration will begin at 5p.m. Sunday at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Talk show host and filmmaker Tony Brown will deliver the keynote speech.

Other speakers will discuss issues relating to business, politics and drugs. Afterward there will be a question-and-answer period, followed by a reception at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, and the publicis invited.

The Black Political Forum will give out its first annual "Malcolm X -- The Man" award at the event.

The forum is co-sponsored by the Anne Arundel County Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Kunta Kinte Celebrations Inc., the Annapolis Office of Drug Policy and Mayor AlfredA. Hopkins' office.

For more information, call 551-7660.

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