Mayor Marion Barry, who returned to the District this week from a five-country trip to Africa, said yesterday, that he will create a city "task force on international affairs" to help promote U.S. financial investments in Africa and cultural exchanges between Americans and Africans.
Although the mayor was vague on how the group would operate, he suggested, that, among other things, it might solicit local financial support for African investments, bring a Seneagalese national art exhibit to the District, start a student exchange program between the University of Dares Salaam and D.C. universities, and hold a symposium on the problems of national capitals.
Flanked by wood carvings, batiks, ivory canes and other objects he bought or was given on the trip, Barry defended his journey at a District Building press conference and described those who said he should'nt have gone as "not enlightened people."
Barry said he would soon hold a town meeting at which D.C. residents could question him about the federally funded trip to Senegal, Liberia, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania.
"I came back more profoundly convinced that we have to be more actively involved in the struggles of our (African) brothers and sisters," Barry said.
Barry's wife, Effi, wearing a floorlength blue and white print gown she bought in Nairobi and gold earrings the shape of Africa, said it was a "personal moving experience" to have an African baby and a health clinic namem after her on the trip. She challenged District residents to help solve such acute African problems as inadequate housing and high infant mortality.
The press conference rules stipulated that no questions could be asked about District issues, although the mayor promised to hold another press conference Monday.
Peter Marzio, Corcoran Gallery of Art director, said the Senegalese art exhibit could be staged there but that the museum has made no firm commitment. He said the gallery needs a sponsor to help finance the exhibit and that it would have to be approved by the museum's art committee.
"I would like to get an African show in now and again," Marzio said. "I think it would be fun."
Barry said that the student exchange programs with the University of Dar es Salaam would likely include students at Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia. Dar es Salaam is Tanzania's capital.
Carter H, Dove, a Riggs National Bank vice president who accompanied Barry on the trip, said he is optimistic that the bank will increase its $25 million loan and credit portfolio to African groups. But he declined to discuss what policy the bank might adopt on investments in South Africa.
Riggs has reportedly lent money to South Africa in the past. Barry emphatically said American firms should not invest any more money in South Africa. CAPTION: Picture, Effi Barry, wife of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, speaks at press conference concerning their African visit. By Fred Sweets -- The Washington Post