There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed.
—Kate Douglas Wiggin
Things had changed for the better back at Citibank’s New York office. While I was overseas, the bank had hired two African Americans, Edward Lewis in the financial engineering department, and Cleveland Christophe in the corporate office. I was thrilled to meet them. We quickly became close friends. Whenever we were together Ed would talk about his idea of starting a national magazine for black women. There were national black news and lifestyle magazines, Jet and Ebony, being the most popular. Both of them were produced by the pioneering black publisher John H. Johnson in Chicago. But a magazine focused essentially on and for black women . . . ?
Before I could see exactly what Ed had in mind with his magazine idea, I was given my next assignment. Citibank had a branch in Monrovia, Liberia in West Africa. The bank was called the Bank of Monrovia and was that nation’s de facto central bank. I was finally going to be posted in Africa, I thought. But knowing the Americo-Liberian history of the country I also knew this would be a mostly English-speaking country.
I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to get a chance to actually use my French, but looked forward to going back to Africa anyway.
One day my vice-president, Warren Wheeler, approached my desk at Citibank with an African man in tow. “I want to introduce you to Clarence Parker, one of our best ...