Accompanying Mayor Marion Barry on his first visit to Africa, Washington Post reporter Alice Bonner crossed five nations in 18 days.
Although she now writes for The Post from Abidian, Ivory Coast, she often covered Barry while working as a city reporter at the District Building before moving to West Africa.
Her dispatches during Barry's trip not only chronicled the visits of a black U.S. mayor with highranking African officials, but also captured a significant moment for black Africans and black Americans.
Along the route, Bonner caught many intimate glimpses of the mayor and members of his party. What follows is a look $ inside a reporter's notebook:
Senegal President Leopold Sedar Senghor, the first head of state Mayor Marion Barry visited on his African tour, fascinated the mayor with historical and cultural insights about the West African country.
Senegalese are the "tallest, blackest and most warrior-like" of all the peoples, Senghor boasted. "It took the French 20 years to conquer us."
Most of the slaves taken from his region were sold in Haiti, he said, although some went to Louisiana. It is there that Senghor's research uncovered what he believes is the root of the word "honky," the epithet for whites, in the Caun and Creole French dialect spoken in Louisiana.
It comes, he said, from the word "honk," meaning red, "which is the way the Europeans first appeared to the Senegalese." At that, the U.S. embassy official translating for Senghor reddened a bit.
The diminutive president, father of his independent country, noted he is not at all typical of the imposing Senegalese, having a Portugese name, a Serere ethnic background and un-Senegalese physique.
Wherever Barry went, word of his coming preceeded him. Americans, most of them black -- vacationing, studying or working in the various countries -- would show up to shake his hand, from a D.C. high school teacher to a flock of Peace Corps volunteers and a woman working for the Tanazanian government.
Three women on vacation in Dakar were complaining over lunch at the Teranga Hotel that they had been asked to leave Liberia, Barry's next stop, so the government could have their rooms for those attending the Organization of African Unity conference.
"Marion Barry!" one of them exclaimed on hearing of the arriving entourage from Washington. "I know him. He went to Lemoyne College (in Memphis) where I went about 10 years later. He was a chemistry major, and they always held him up to us science majors as an example.
"Then," she added, twisting her mouth as if to purge a bad taste, "He went into politics."
Although it was neither consistent nor unanimous, an opinion often heard within the mayor's party was that the U.S. International Communications Agency (CA) and embassy officials, most of them white, were not as sensitive as they should have been in handling the special situation of a black mayor visiting Africa.
In some cases, local black U.S. officials were either not invited to events scheduled for the mayor or were relegated to background positions.
In Dakar, mayoral aide Courtland V. Cox brought an oversight to the attention of the embassy and a guest list was altered.
In another instance, however, an ICA officer was overhead furiously ordering a black American woman out of a house where she had shown up uninvited to say hello to Barry.
The mayor was not without critics and dissenters along the route. At the University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, for example, Barry was telling faculty and administration members that blacks in America "finally and gradually are getting into power" in the United States but "we have a long way to go."
Neville Parker, a Howard University civil engineering professor who came to Dar Es Salaam three years ago as a Fulbright professor and stayed on, was among the listeners.
"In my opinion it's just a temporary thing," Parker said of the gains Barry mentioned, dampening the atmosphere. "Black people's history goes up and down. At the moment it's up, but I wonder when it will go down again. All we ask is that while your're in there you do a hell of a lot."
Personalities and philosophies sometimes clashed in the mayor's own party.
"Well, it's Friday morning in Washington," observed Robert B. Washing Jr., D.C. laywer and Democratic leader, looking at his wristwatch, still set to Eastern Standard Time after two weeks in Africa.
"I always like to be completely where I am," a disapproving Courtland V. Cox came back as they shared a ride to an appointment. Cox' watch showed the correct time for East Africa, seven hours later than Washington.
"It's just a matter of calculation," Washington protested.
"No, it's not, man," Cox said decisively. "It's a matter of your perception and your point of reference."
Witnesses to a late night card game among the mayor's group at the Ducor Hotel in Monrovia said the mayor and his companions played poker while directors of the Liberian culture troupe delayed a special performance for him.
The next day, Olfied Dukes, the Washington public relations executive who arranged the evening for Barry, said the mayor had been involved in "business of state." But Carter Dove, the Riggs National Bank vice president for Middle East and African affairs who accompanied the party (and was dubbed by one wag on the trip "the honky who sat by the door"), gave the lie the boot the next morning when he groaned, "Those guys really cleaned me out in that poker game last night."
When Mayor Barry landed in Dakar, Senegal, on Friday, July 13, a front page story in the local morning paper heralded him as "Le Premier Maier Noir," indicating he was the first black mayor of Washington.
In Nairobi, Barry again was introduced as the first black elected mayor of the District by Nairobi Mayor A.K. Ngumba who hosted a lunch for him.
Barry rose and gave a warmly received speech, never mentioning Walter Washington's decisive electoral victory in 1974.
Mayor Barry refused to permit WJLA-Channel 7 television anchor-woman Renee Poussaint to cover his lunch with the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce in Nairobi on the grounds that she had skipped his visit to a housing project that morning and he feared her film would portray him as having done nothing but attend lunches.
One communication problem arose from the International Communiciations Agency (ICA), which despite the implication of its title, sometimes seemed at a loss for what to do with the press.
Since the only two American journalists traveling with the mayor were women, it seemed perfectly logical to ICA Director Irwin K. Teven to schedule the press with Effi Barryy for three exclusively female gatherings in Nairobi, while the mayor went elsewhere.
On questioning, Teven said the reporters were perfectly welcome to cover the mayor's meetings with the chamber of commerce, the minister for local government and an appearance on a television program, instead of going to the women's session.
Had they been men, he conceded, the reporters would "probably" have been scheduled with the mayor. But there was nothing sexist about his decision, he insisted, adding "I just thought that the meetings with the women would be more interesting."
"Is it true that your were locked up at one time," Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere asked Barry as an icebreaker during their Saturday afternoon meeting.
"About 20 times," the mayor replied, briefly describing his participation in student sit-ins to integrate public facilities, street demonstrations to gain voting rights for blacks in Mississippi and other civil rights activities.
But, Barry added quickly, "I haven't been locked up since I've been mayor."
Nyerere relished the point, clearly enjoying the shared laughter. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By Allen Carroll for The Washington Post