Remembering the 85th birth anniversary of Mother Mary Brownell
A Speech by Konah Lahaitu Brownell
Good evening distinguished ladies and gentleman! May I say I am humbled by being selected to welcome you men and woman of timbre and caliber to this most precious occasion, the 85th birth anniversary of my dearest grandaunt.
My name is Konah Lahaitu Brownell, and I am the daughter of Alfred and Bessie Brownell Sr. My late grandfather, Samuel Dodo Weah Brownell, was a favorite of his sisters; and I wish he was here so that we may also celebrate him as well, but the cold hands of death took him away. I am sure he is sitting somewhere around these tables today, in spirit, celebrating with his dear sister, my grandaunt.
Since the last major celebration five years ago, we have said goodbye to Aunty Edith Brownell Smythe, Lord Alexander Bode Brownell, Samuel Kla Brownell Sr. and cousin Elizabeth Brownell Passie.
Anyway, enough of the sentiments!
At the age of 12, I took on the mantle where great giants, heroes and heroines of our time have stood. As a grandniece, I am not too sure that the generations of Brownells I currently represent are now ready and prepared to receive the Brownells’ tailor-made and ironclad legacy – a position my grand auntie, the matriarch of our family, currently occupies as custodian and torchbearer.
This is a position that has been in evolution since the days of my great, great, grandfather, Thomas Church Garbla Brownell, when he defied perceptions and superstition, stood for the truth and climb Mount Gedeh to set free his people enslaved in superstition, illiteracy and ignorance; unto my great grandfather, Cllr. Nete sie Brownell, former Attorney General and Post Master General, Former Vice Presidential candidate of the Independent True Whig Party, an iconic lawyer who spoke truth to power, fought for social, political and economic justice, travelled for months on the high seas to Europe along with his friend Dan Morais to defend the rights of Liberians taken as slaves to Fernando Po and was sent to prison in the infamous 1955 Plot that failed.
It is this Brownell torch that has been passed on to my grand auntie that today, after 85 years of solid service to family, church, country and humanity, we celebrate, giving her her flowers while she is still able and ready to smile and laugh with and at us. I am sure during this evening there will be great testimonies by great men and women, edifying the great achievements of the life of my grand auntie.
For every man or a woman there are strengths and weaknesses; the Brownell Family, or should I say the Brownell Clan, is no exception to this rule, for we are only humans. However, we can knock our chests and proudly and boldly say that the Brownell clans through history and contemporary times have left their footprints on the sands of time.
I have talked a bit about the footprints of my great grandparents but look around these tables and see for yourself the living testimonies. Beside my grand auntie, who is already a living legend and icon, there is auntie Shirley Brownell, Head of Communications at the Executive Mansion, and no doubt the author of many of our President’s contemporary speeches in the last three years; aunty Alpha Bisse Brownell, one of Liberia’s first female architect; auntie Miatta Fahnbulleh, the DIVA of Liberian Arts and Culture and a women and children’s activist; uncle Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh Jr., the veteran and undisputed political activist and leader of his time; grand aunt Nadieh Brownell Neufville, Miss Liberia and only Liberian to be crowned Miss Africa; uncle Julius Boakai Fahnbulleh Sr., CPA, Group CFO for four corporations in Maryland and Washington, D.C; and the sonorous voice of the family, the Rev Dr. Lincoln Brownell Jr, who reformed and transformed the Liberian Baptist Theological Seminary from its ashes into a modern center of theological studies and learning. There is also my late uncle Professor Bode Lord Brownell, professor of chemistry and physics and one of the youngest in his field; and uncle John N. Brownell, who is the President of the Federation of Liberians in Europe; and of course there is my own father, Alfred L. Brownell Sr., who has challenged the unbridled powers of multinational corporations and defended the rights and voices of local communities; and my young grand uncle Thomas Catfish Brownell, an environmentalist; and my list could go on and on.
Mother Brownell is blessed with six children: Miatta Fahnbuleh, H.B. Fahnbulleh, J. Boakai Fahnbuleh, John D’Martin; 19 grandchildren; eight great grandchildren; and two great, great grandchildren; four sisters: Edith G Smythe, Shirley Brownell, Alpha Brownell and Nadieh Brownell Neufville; six brothers: Lincoln Brownell, Samuel D Brownell, Nete Sie Brownell, Bode Lloyd Brownell, John N Brownell and Thomas Catfish Gabla Brownell; Over 75 nephews and nieces; and the patriarch of the Brownell Clan, Saba Kla Brownell Sr.
There are also extended family members, who are also part of this clan. There is the veteran journalist Kenneth Y. Best and veteran political activist and politician Togbah Nah Tipoteh.
We worked and earned our historic places in Liberia and the world and will continue to do so through the generations. We challenged the superstition of Mount Gedeh; we challenged the iron clad bars of the prisons to keep us silent; we challenged dictatorship and tyranny; and we challenged the unbridled powers of multinationals. We do not have a choice because we are BROWNELLS. We have a legacy to protect and each generation of Brownells have a historical responsibility to uphold that legacy.
As I indicated earlier, what an honor and a privilege to welcome you distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the WHO’S WHO of Liberia, to celebrate the 85th birth anniversary of my dearest grand auntie, a living legend of our time and an iconic educator, peace and human rights activist.
My grand auntie is an educator, peace and human rights activist, philanthropist, ardent church member (commonly referred to as Matthew the tax collector at St. Thomas church), ECOWAS eminent citizen, Ambassador for Peace and International Heroine Mother.
Dr. Grandma Mary, Mother Brownell, Matthew the tax collector, or Aunty Mary, depending on how we feel, is a daughter of Cavalla Maryland County; and so as we celebrate, we celebrate our ancestral home. Even though as BROWNELLS, she is our auntie, grand auntie, mother and grandmother, you will agree with me that we have loaned her to Liberia and the rest of the world – so she has become the mother, grandmother and auntie to all. This is the Brownell’s brand name.
We have prepared delicious dishes just for your taste buds as stimuli ahead of the entertainment and performances from real musicians, and from real music lovers.
So, the food is here, the music is here and you are here; so, what are we waiting for?
Whatever is your wish or desire, just catch the attention of any hostesses and we know you will be satisfied.
Once again, on behalf of the Brownells, Wallaces, Fahnbullehs and D’Martins, thank you!