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SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.

Contact: Ted DeAdwyler
phone: (415) 338-1665


SAN FRANCISCO, August 23, 2000 --- At 83 years of age, Emmett Wright of San Francisco wants to be better known as a student than a retiree. Just seven years ago, he received his bachelor's degree in Black Studies from San Francisco State University. Now he can call himself a student of the world after his three-week summer visit to Zimbabwe with a group of students and faculty from SFSU.

He had promised himself nearly 50 years ago that he would visit Africa.

"I was overseas during World War II and I said to myself that one day I was going to return and visit Africa. I really wanted to see first-hand the country and talk with the people. I met so many wonderful, friendly and polite people. It is an experience that really changes you. Everyone should visit, not just black people," said Wright, who is African American and lives in Visitacion Valley with his family.

Wright was part of a group from San Francisco State University that traveled to Harare, Zimbabwe after a semester-long course on the country's politics and culture.

Their trip came at a time of social change with parliamentary elections and the government's plans to seize a large portion of productive farmland owned by whites and redistribute it to poor black families. Political violence had claimed more than 30 lives.

Although the S.F. State contingent --- nine students and three faculty members --- was safely far from rural areas where many protests took place, Wright said he could sense that change was in the air. "You could feel the tension. The talk about the farmlands was a subject of conversation wherever we would go," he said. "It was exciting to be in a place where a country was going through a transition."

The class and the S.F. State group was led by Johnetta Richards, professor of Black Studies at S.F. State who has been visiting Zimbabwe since the early 1980s. It was the third time that Richards has taken a group of San Francisco State students on the nearly 10,000-mile trip. Before the students are allowed to go on the trip---which has a price of $2,700, a cost the students must cover --- the students must take the course to learn about the country. "This is not a trip just to see the sites. The students are traveling to learn and they do want to learn about the country," said Richards.

In addition to classes at the University of Zimbabwe, the students serve weeklong internships in businesses, schools and government offices. But more than just observe the workplace in Zimbabwe, the students were expected to contribute their ideas as well.

Over the years, Richards has had a dance student work with a youth dance troupe, an accounting major help out in an advertising office and a political science student assist in Zimbabwe's Parliament. Emmett Wright worked in several churches helping ministers.

Richards is already planning another trip to Zimbabwe for June 2001. "Our students are learning about the real Africa and getting past stereotypes," she said.

For more information about the trip, call Richards at (415) 338-7589.

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