Washington State Africa Network
National Summit on Africa
Copyright © 1999 The Seattle Times Company
Lifestyles : Thursday, July 22, 1999

Tandem passions: Seattle man hopes bike tours raise profile of Africa

Jerry Large / Times Staff Columnist

David Mozer is into bicycles and Africa. He's not the sort of person who believes that his interests ought to be the most important things for everyone else just because they are important to him, but he does think it wouldn't hurt if more people experienced those interests.

He says it was an accident that he was one of the leaders of a discussion yesterday on U.S. relations with Africa. However, he really is prepared to fill the vacuum he got sucked into.

About three years ago, the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corp. put up money to start The National Summit on Africa, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is fostering discussions on the relationship between the United States and the countries of Africa.

The summit leaders pulled together several groups of experts in a variety of fields, people who spanned a spectrum of ideologies, Americans and Africans to write papers about everything from democracy to education to trade and quality of life as a starting point for discussions that would include anyone who wanted to be included.

Last month regional summits were held and local groups are growing out of those summits. That's where Mozer got involved.

He attended a Seattle meeting before the Pacific Coast Regional Summit, which was held last month in San Francisco. Mozer said he could only attend the morning session because it was his daughter's birthday and he had to leave to be with her. In his absence he was picked for the delegation to San Francisco.

Mozer was a good choice. He's been involved with Africa since the Peace Corps sent him to Liberia in 1975.

The place laid claim on him as it has on so many visitors. He became a student of Africa and has taught college and high-school classes about the continent in the years since. After his Peace Corps tour, he worked for the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia and did some teaching in Africa, math and sciences.

Now he runs a travel business, Bicycle Africa, that combines both of his passions.

Mozer grew up in Seattle and says his parents encouraged him to do his own thinking. He left home to live on his own at 15, figuring he was ready for independence. He was already an avid bicyclist. "When I was at Garfield (High School), I biked to Hood Canal for a student retreat in the '60s and I biked to Montana once."

While he was on his bicycle trips he'd look for information on Indians who lived in whatever area he was passing through. It was sort of cultural tourism that became the core of the bicycle tours when they began in 1983 - the idea that travel is more valuable when a person gets close to the local culture.

"Africa gets short shrift," he tells me. "It's not all wildlife and crises." His tours give people a chance to find that out.

Mozer left high school after the 11th grade and applied to The Evergreen State College. They said he was too young, but he pounded at the door until they let him in.

After college he went through a couple of jobs, but "there was not enough creativity," so he applied to the Peace Corps. He says he would have taken to whatever part of the world he landed in, and wherever it was he would have been committed to a knowledge that went beyond what often passes for multicultural education, "more than festivals, food and fashion."

If he had to list all the issues in the world by priority, Mozer says his passions wouldn't be at the top (see www.ibike.org).

But, he says, "You can't pick everything by priority. I get some enjoyment out of it. It is a fascinating place and I like excuses to go back. Going back renews my faith in the ability of people to problem solve."

Last night he spent part of his evening lobbying the Seattle City Council to create a new bike trail, then he went on to the Seattle Africa Summit meeting not just to let people know how they can benefit Africa, but how Africa can benefit them.

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