Talk of the Town - X factor May 14 2003

In the City of King, there's a need for Malcolm X.

With that, Kenyatta Gedegbevi sums up the motivation behind the 14th annual Malcolm X Parade and Festival. A parade and festival may seem like an odd way to honor a man known for his radical views and militant words — and Gedegbevi understands why some people might be a little perplexed.

"Calling this a parade is probably a stretch," says the Georgia State student, who is the local coordinator of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. "It begins with more of a march. We pass out information and rally people to the cause."

But there is an entertainment aspect to the event: Traditional African musicians, jazz artists and reggae groups perform; clowns and face painting are available for children. But there's also a pronounced political agenda set forth by speakers and groups discussing issues such as the solidarity movement and reparations.

Because of the popularity of the annual festival, its location, West End Park, is known by many residents as Malcolm X Park. And given Gedegbevi's current involvement in the event, it's hard to believe he was once skeptical about the movement.

"I actually thought they were kinda whacko when I first met people in the group," he says. "But as I learned more and more about it, I realized it was something very important to me as an individual, as well as to black people as a whole."

i>Sat., May 17. March begins at noon; festival held 1 p.m.-sundown. West End Park, corner of Lawton and Oak streets. 678-432-4982. mxgrm_atl@yahoo.com.