Posted by: beninmwangi | October 4, 2007

The Day My Dad (Dr. Charles S Brown) Changed My Life


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Originally uploaded by beninmwangi

People always ask me what inspired me to get so involved in Africa or how did I wind up wanting to promote the African continent as a business destination.

This is a question that I get fairly often. Most of the time people from the States and sometimes every now/then from people that I meet and know from Africa. It seems like the questions, behind the questions could be “why should it matter that there are business opportunities and successful entrepreneurs in Africa?” And “what do you know about Africa, anyway?” But, you know…my background’s not really in psychology or anything-thats just my take on these questions.

Anyway though, this post is my round-about attempt at answering both questions. So come on and let’s see if we can really just rap a tad and get to the bottom of it all. Be forewarned though, it’s a bit longish…

Now the year was September 1995, I was like a 3rd year sophomore at Morehouse College (I had just changed my major from engineering to economics). More importantly, my path seemed paved for the road of the entrepreneur. You see at 20 years old my partner and I had already started our own real estate biz. We weren’t making any real money yet, but everyday our Rolodex expanded. It really felt like the tipping point was right in front of us…And that’s when it happened-my father found out that he had been chosen as a Fulbright Scholar to teach physics at some university in Ghana, it was the University of Cape Coast, for like 17 months. He told me about it & and at the time, I had not bought into the idea yet. To my Dad’s credit, for the next one to two months he worked on me with subtle, yet persistent suggestions. Then he finally was like if you don’t go you might end up regretting it for a long time (Now my dad had a funny way of predicting things and almost all of his predictions came true). On top of this he dropped the bombshell on me, he said, “Ben if you don’t go, then I’m not going”. Now, I knew how much this trip meant to him, so that helped to change my mind.

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Later on in life, I realized that’s that forever altered the course of my life; it’s the day that my father and I signed an unwritten or unspoken father and son agreement. Shortly after my decision was made I spoke to all of my professors and my student advisors to make sure that my student status would still be intact upon my return, which would be in a year. They assured me that not only would it be intact, but that since my father was going under the Fulbright Program, in essence I would be doing the same thing, plus on top of that since the University of Cape Coast had such a strong reputation, any classes that I took would count for the normal credit hours… This was October 95′-I think..

Oh, fast forward to November 95’…Since my dad and I were supposed to leave for Ghana towards the end of November my professors all agreed to let me take my finals a bit earlier. My recollection is that by the end of November everything was ready-my finals were complete, my father and I had taken our shots, physicals, passports, visas, then the going away party, and all that other good stuff.5-dad-me-kumasi.jpg

 So now, all we had to do was to prepare our belongings for the long journey, that lay ahead. This took about another week, which worked out fine, because our departing flight was probably like that first week in December. Funny thing about it is even though it seemed like we had so much time and were so prepared on the day of the flight we were still running around in a nervous frenzy. Someone, who was helping us do like some final packing on the day of departure had noticed that there were a lot of opened packages in our luggages-you know like toothpaste, lip balm, hair pomade ( that was back when I had a full head of it). Our friend who just so happened to be a big international traveler, was like where do you think you’re going with these opened packages….we were like, to the flight! But what happened is that we had overlooked the fact that U.S. customs & didn’t allow those opened packages on international flights ( something to do with international security). Inside the back of my mind was, “all these times Dad went to Africa (my father loves Africa and always has), how can we not know that you can’t carry opened packages?” By the time we took care of it we were late for the flight. Matter of fact when we got to the gate the plane had already started pulling away from the terminal. We ran as fast as we could and the airline agent who was about to leave his podium somehow managed to stop the flight from leaving without us.

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The flight itself was almost unbearable, from the time we left Atlanta until the time we arrived in Ghana was like 24 hours-granted we had a 6 hr layover in Amsterdam-which we maximized to the fullest. So by the time we arrived in Ghana we were so tired and dehydrated we didn’t know how we’d even make it off the plane. But we did make it off

What started out for me as just a one year study abroad tour in Africa, quickly progressed into one of the greatest bonding experiences that a father and son could have -Dad you were right again. And that was just the beginning.

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Responses

  1. This is such a lovely story and clearly one of your favourites. Hope to read more.


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