GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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April 11, 2008

Next chapter for Forum founder: South Africa

Dan Connell, a journalist for decades, has traveled to the far corners of Africa, where he has been witness to many attempts to establish democracy amidst the struggles for social justice.

He later settled in Gloucester, where he spearheaded the effort to create the Cape Ann Forum after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to increase public understanding of international issues. The forum is now in its seventh season.

Connell, a lecturer in journalism and African studies at Simmons College in Boston, on Monday will launch his newest effort in helping others understand the human condition. He and a group of students will unveil a book titled "Old Wrongs, New Rights" published by Africa World Press.

The small book contains candid personal essays by Simmons students about the "new South Africa," based on their visits and interviews with a cross-section of South Africans living in the post-apartheid country.

The essays reveal the economic struggles faced by the citizens in their new democracy, where so many lack adequate, if any, housing and access to adequate education. But the students also found beauty, strength and resilience with the people. The chapters contain an array of subject matters, including the fight for women's equality, the struggle to meet basic needs, and dealing with homosexuality.

This was Connell's second trip with students to South Africa to explore the transition.

"After making the second trip with students last May and June to look at the broad issue of human rights, we came back with another batch of what I thought were outstanding pieces of writing — snapshots of daily life and the efforts of ordinary people to realize the dream of equality and freedom. The results are what we published," Connell said.

He also shares his experiences with Gloucester High School students. Working with teacher Rich Francis, who teaches a unit on Africa, Connell spoke to the local students recently about his work.

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