- Feb 11, 2007
British Jamaican Monica Brown (second right) speaks to The Citizen reporter during an interview in Dar es Salaam yesterday. With them are, from left: Ms Iciline Brown, The Reverend Adassa Simith, Mr Johnson Johnson and Mr Noel Brown. Right is The Reverend Frederick Brown. PHOTO | SALIM SHAO
Dar es Salaam. There was laughter and deep sighs among seven members of the Brown family yesterday, as they sat under the heat of the sun by the pool side at Kunduchi, reflecting on their journey to Tanzania.
It was two weeks ago when Iciline (80) started off from London to East Africa. Iciline, who is British Jamaican, has made the journey to Africa for the first time.
Accompanying Iciline was her sister, Adassa Smith (85), sons Frederick (58), Noel (55), and Phillip (50), daughter Monica (57) and grandson Johann (23), who is Monica’s son. It has been a journey of discovering their identity.
“This journey seems unbelievable. Is this a dream? No, it is not. It is reality. As a young person, I would read of the things done unto humanity and wonder was there no one to say that this was wrong. I never thought I would one day come to the land that I used to only hear about.
“It’s awesome to be here. The blessings I’ve been blessed with aren’t financial. I am here with my children and my grandchildren. That is the greatest blessing,” she said. She celebrated her 80th birthday on their trip here in December.
The journey started with Monica in 2007 when she heard a radio announcement on the BBC. They were looking for six people with Caribbean heritage who wanted to know about their roots. “They were describing me,” Monica said with a laugh. What they found out from examining her DNA was shocking.
Freddie, her brother explains: “Many people have thought that we were Ghanaian. But the DNA results revealed that the closest match was in East Africa in the region of Tanzania. Now, some people say we have the same features as Haya people.” He further explains how he has always been curious about where he comes from.
“When we were growing up in the UK, our father was like the chief in the village and we would welcome people from all over the place. We understood that we were British and Jamaican. But I always had this thing within me – where is home?”
His brother, Phillip recalls his first trip in 2011. He came on his own and arrived on the day of his birthday. It wasn’t just a holiday, he says. It was deeper than that.
“I came to the home of one of my ancestors. To eat the food that he might have eaten, smell the air that he might have breathed, walk on the ground that he might have stepped on. I remember one of the things that I said when I got here was that this looks all so familiar,” he said. It was a week of so much discovery.
It is deeply profound to hear someone say ‘Karibu Nyumbani’, says Noel. To someone who has lived all their lives not knowing their origin, it means a lot.
His aunt, Adassa echoes those words, “I didn’t think I would see this day or come this far. I’ve heard of the Indian Ocean, but I have never thought that I could get this close to it,” said Adassa. Especially as you’re getting older, you ask yourself where do we really come from?
Representing three generations, the family seems to have found a new meaning through their experience. Now Freddie says, they are thinking of how to contribute through their various expertise.
“It’s not just a romantic appeal of coming here and being embraced by the people. We are looking for an opportunity to contribute,” Monica said. “We are not tourists. That’s not why we are here,” Freddie added.
Johann Johnson, who is the youngest in the group says that he has seen a lot of changes since he last came with his mother in 2010. He believes that Tanzania is a place with a bright future.
Source: The Citizen