For 20 years, I wrote local, national, international and magazine articles for The Washington Post. But of all my beats, it is the Africa beat, the Africa stories, that are closest to my heart and that grip me to this day. My book, "Mandela, Mobutu and Me," is based on my travels and dispatches in Africa during the four years from 1995 to 1999 that I spent as The Washington Post's Johannesburg bureau chief.
My territory spanned southern and central Africa, so I traveled and wrote of events in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Congo-Zaire, Rwanda, Uganda, and elsewhere. I covered South Africa's first democratic government, under President Nelson Mandela. Further north, I chronicled the decline and fall of Zaire under President Mobutu Sese Seko. Post-genocide Rwanda also occupied much of my time, as did the final years of the long Angolan civil war and the slow unraveling of Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe. In between the big stories of Africa, I managed to write also of ordinary life and ordinary people - the fishermen of Mozambique, the villagers of Namibia, the women of Zambia who tired of walking to the river for water and so started their own water works, just to name a few.
Upon my return from Africa, I served as the newspaper's New York bureau chief for a year and covered the U.S. Senate campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Then I switched to the New York features beat and wrote of the life of the city, especially the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.
I returned to Washington in 2004 and wrote features on a wide range of subjects such as the conflict in Sudan, post traumatic stress, war-time propaganda, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as well as profiles of people in the news.
Before I joined the Post, I wrote for The Miami Herald. For a Miami Herald Tropic magazine profile of a Miami housing project overrrun by the crack cocaine epidemic, I was a finalist in feature writing for the 1988 Pulitzer Prize and won that year's Penny-Missouri award for feature writing. In 1995, I received an award for feature writing from the National Association of Black Journalists for a Washington Post magazine piece on a white South Carolinian searching for descendents of the slaves his ancestors once owned.
I am a native of Los Angeles, CA, where I attended Crenshaw High School and attended the University of California at Los Angeles. But ultimately I received my undergraduate degree in political science at Columbia University in New York in 1984, with a focus on international affairs. A year later, I earned a master's degree, with honors, from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
In June 2008, I retired from The Washington Post and began work on another Africa book, this one about the slave trade. Please stay tuned for more information.