Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Desmond Brown, June 26, 2014

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Growing up, family, and education through secondary school

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Partial Transcript: First sound check for, uh, interview with, uh, Desmond Brown on, uh, June 26th, 2014.

Segment Synopsis: Until he went to secondary school in Freetown, Desmond Brown lived with his very strict grandmother in a rural village an hour walking outside the city. Kids' jobs were selling produce from the garden, gathering wood, and fetching water. He went to Freetown to live with his mother and graduated with O levels from prestigious Sierra Leone Grammar School in 1975. He tells a story about beating a bully.

Keywords: Beating a bully; Fourah Bay; Freetown; GCE O level exams.; Gardening; Gloucester; Grandmothers; Growing up; Marketing; Secondary school; Sierra Leone; University of Sierra Leone

Subjects: Childhood; Education; Families.

GPS: Freetown, Sierra Leone
Map Coordinates: 8.484444, -13.234444
00:10:46 - More education and work experience in Sierra Leone

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Partial Transcript: So did, did you go on to university in Sierra Leone?

Segment Synopsis: Brown describes working in Fourah Bay University library for a year, then taking sixth form A levels for two more years. He then worked at British Caledonia Airlines for two years and also served as a tour guide and did some buying and selling. He got interested in tourism and decided he wanted to come to the U.S. to go to college. He was accepted at Morgan State and in 1981 had $2066 for tuition for one year and arrived with $300 in his pocket. He had visited Great Britain twice but was more interested in the U.S.

Keywords: British Caledonia Airways; Jobs; Morgan State University; Sixth Form education

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Higher education; Tourism

GPS: Sierra Leone
Map Coordinates: 8.48445, -13.23445
00:15:39 - Education and work history in the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: And what, what was that first experience like?

Segment Synopsis: Brown commuted from Washington D.C. on Greyhound to Baltimore for the first semester, while living with cousins. Then he bought a car and moved to Baltimore and worked his way through school, graduating in 1985. He then went to George Washington University for a master's degree, interrupted by getting a MBA from University of New Haven. He then moved from Connecticut to Georgia to be front manager for a new hotel near Atlanta. He taught as an adjunct at Georgia State. After three years he became a full-time instructor at Johnson and Wales College in Charleston, South Carolina for a year. He left to take a fellowship at Virginia Tech for his doctorate, graduating in 1996. He came to University of Kentucky in 1995.

Keywords: Baltimore (Md.); Commuting; George Washington University; Georgia State University; Hotel management; Teaching; University education; University of New Haven; Virginia Tech; Washington, D.C.

Subjects: Employment; Higher education; Teachers

GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.904722, -77.016389
GPS: Baltimore (Md.)
Map Coordinates: 39.283333, -76.616667
GPS: George Washington University
Map Coordinates: 38.9007, -77.0508
GPS: University of New Haven
Map Coordinates: 41.291859, -72.96219
GPS: Georgia State University
Map Coordinates: 33.753694, -84.385972
GPS: Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)
Map Coordinates: 37.225, -80.425
GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.033333, -84.5
00:22:51 - Family

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Partial Transcript: Alright you mentioned, uh, that you had, uh, family and two children.

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about his two daughters who graduated from University of Kentucky. His older daughter is a compliance officer for the city of Chicago. His younger daughter just graduated from UK Law School and is working for the city.

Keywords: Children; Daughters; Jobs

Subjects: Education; Employment; Families.; University of Kentucky

GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.033333, -84.5
00:25:06 - Expectations and impressions of the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: Um, going back a little bit, at the beginning of your, your time in the U.S., do you remember in, sort of in what ways the U.S. was like what you thought it would be...

Segment Synopsis: Brown knew about the U.S. before coming from watching movies, and also from the U.S. Embassy and from relatives who had been in the U.S. and been successful.

Keywords: Expectations; Movies; TV; Television; U.S. Embassy

Subjects: Culture and customs of North America; Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants

00:27:40 - Acculturation

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Partial Transcript: So what ways do you, do you see yourself having sort of been acculturated in the U.S.?

Segment Synopsis: Brown has kept his accent, still speaks Krio, and eats Sierra Leone food. He is still amazed at democracy in such a huge country with a unity of purpose where things run smoothly. He talks about his daughters' identification as Americans with parents from Sierra Leone. He has been home five times since the 11 years of civil war in his country and sees things are improving gradually. His mother has been here for more than 20 years but he is in touch about once a week with family in Sierra Leone. He still feels attachment to the land; it is home and he will continue to visit.

Keywords: Children's identification; Communication.; Krio; Travel

Subjects: Assimilation (Sociology); Immigrants--Kentucky

GPS: Sierra Leone
Map Coordinates: 8.48445, -13.23445
00:34:41 - Origin, identity, and discrimination

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Partial Transcript: Uh, what kinds of questions do people here, now or over the past twenty years, ask you about Sierra Leone?

Segment Synopsis: Brown says that people don't know where Sierra Leone is. Sometimes they know the movie" Blood Diamond." Sometimes they ask "Do you speak French?" He talks about Sierra Leone to friends and colleagues, and occasionally students. He is an American citizen. "When people know you as a human being the discrimination goes away." He knows he has not experienced discrimination the way African-Americans have.

Keywords: "Blood Diamond" (film); Origins; Sierra Leone

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions; Discrimination; Identity; Race discrimination

GPS: Sierra Leone
Map Coordinates: 8.48445, -13.23445
00:42:50 - Contributions to Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Um, now, uh, there, there are more than 13,000 African immigrants in Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Brown has done research on tourism development, the horse industry, casino gaming, and has been on the Convention and Visitors Bureau. He has also had an impact on students as a professor.

Keywords: Casino gaming; Convention and Visitors Bureau; Impact; Research; Teaching; Tourism development

Subjects: Teachers--Kentucky; Tourism--Kentucky

GPS: Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 37.5, -85
00:45:58 - Fulbright and other experiences in Ghana

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Partial Transcript: Um, now you, you were referring earlier to, uh, Ghana.

Segment Synopsis: Brown went to Ghana as a volunteer to develop tourism curriculum at two-year colleges, and later as a Fulbright Scholar to University of Cape Coast in 2003. Ghana is one of his favorite countries. He feels very fortunate to have been in the U.S. and enjoys learning from his students.

Keywords: Fulbright Scholarship; Learning from students; University of Cape Coast; Winrock International

Subjects: Ghana.; Teachers; Teaching

GPS: Ghana
Map Coordinates: 7.816667, -1.05
GPS: University of Cape Coast
Map Coordinates: 5.1036, -1.2825