TEAMWORK: Chairman James Brown, with his staff (from left) Joan Blaney, director; Naseem Taswar, head of learning and development; William George, finance manager; Sarah McNally, project co-ordinator
AS COMPANY chairmen go James Brown will take some beating as he has just taken on the running of a new company – at the young age of 94.
Mr Brown is in the hot seat of Birmingham-based Adanna Enterprise (UK) Ltd, a company which is involved in a number of private ventures including employment, training, media, event organising and support for small businesses.
He’s the wise man at the helm, who is at Adanna’s Edgbaston offices every day, dispensing advice and monitoring the work by the company’s six staff.
Joan Blaney, CBE, Adanna’s director, said: “Mr Brown is more than simply our chairman – he’s a mentor too and has had a great effect on the office.
“We felt it was important to have an elder in our group who has gathered a great deal of wisdom in his long life. He’s a moral compass for all of us and for visitors to the office, particularly young people.
“He chats to them and makes them realise that even though times are tough for youngsters today, life was not easy for him either in a totally different time when he came to the UK as one of the first people from Jamaica.
“We’ve also noticed that behaviour and language has improved now – there’s no more swearing and shouting now Mr Brown is around!”
Adanna is working with partners in the UK, the Caribbean and Africa, with a ‘can do’ approach, turning ideas into action, developing successful business relationships and providing first-rate professional training and support services.
It’s a world away from Mr Brown’s arrival in the UK, which took three weeks by ship after leaving Kingston.
As one of the first pioneers from Jamaica, Mr Brown, who was born in St Ann’s Parish, District Bamboo, and his late wife Alberta, who sadly died last year at the age of 93, experienced their fair share of racism, which still shocks today’s young generation.
“I remember when we were viewing a home we wanted to buy in Birmingham, the neighbours next door tried to lock the gates so we couldn’t get in,” recalled father-of-four Mr Brown, with a smile.
“And I remember there was a window cleaner who refused to clean our windows, so I did my own. Then, when mine were cleaner than everyone else’s people started complaining to the window cleaner. When he asked me if he could now start cleaning mine, I said no.
“Once the neighbours got to know us as a family they were fine, but it often took time with everyone.
“I remember going on a day trip to Blackpool with the factory where I was working as a welder.
“People would talk to you at work, but outside they didn’t want to know you and that happened to me that day. You learned who your true friends were.”
But the Browns settled in Birmingham and eventually called it home.
After his retirement Mr Brown made his first trip back home to Jamaica in 35 years and helped to build a home for his family in Spanish Town.
“When I went back I saw many improvements – so much more educational chances, especially for women,” he said.
“Jamaica has done well since her independence. It makes me proud to see all she has achieved.”