The Local, October 20,2023
There was a sense of anticipation as the emcee of the concert paced the stage, punctuating the air with his fists, arms swinging and legs kicking. The drums or keyboard would add an exclamation at the end of each sentence and the audience was ready to “raise a lively chorus” as they say in the Caribbean.
.It was June 25th, the last CWOP (Caribbean Workers Outreach Project ) church service of the season as well as their annual concert when farmworkers could share their favourite gospel songs from home.
It was an enthusiastic and affirming audience. The men in the front row were laughing and applauding the musicians and were soon on their feet clapping and dancing along. If anyone needed an evening of joy and comforting sounds of home it would have been these men, still grieving the unexpected death of a young coworker at P.G.Enns farm only a few weeks prior.
Daniel Brown, who had returned for his third year in Niagara, was one of the front row enthusiasts.
Brown grew up close to the little town of Mavis Bank, perched high atop the Blue Mountains in Jamaica. It’s the premier coffee growing region with Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee bringing close to $100 a pound. Due to pricing structures of the controlling coffee cartels the coffee farmers themselves are paid less per box of unroasted fresh beans than it costs for them to produce it. Ironically many of the coffee farmers rely on employment with the farm work programs in the U.S. and Canada so they can afford the fertilizer and costs to keep the family farm going in the Blue Mountains.
As in most small towns in Jamaica the social life in the Mavis Bank area revolves around local churches. With so many men away on overseas work programs churches provide the necessary social and practical support, especially during hurricane season and crises.
Daniel and his family were very active at the Pilgrim Church of God, a lively gospel hall church built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the lush mountainside and the coastal city of Kingston far to the south. Singing, playing keyboards and drums at church, performing at youth conferences across the island allowed him to develop his gifts in a way that brought joy to many.
His motto was “Why worry when you can pray.” Among his friends he was known as Lucky but his coworkers at P.G.Enns farm and Van Berlo potato farms in Simcoe – where he transferred to in September to finish his season – also described him as a man of strong faith who stuck to his convictions.
He was proud of his family and could not wait to meet his 1 month old baby daughter when he returned home the end of October.
Then tragedy struck on Sunday morning, October 8. Safeana, his wife, phoned him but received no response which was highly unusual. She quickly phoned his coworkers who checked on him and found him unresponsive in his bed.
It is impossible to imagine the impact of this tragedy on his wife, children and family. Brown’s close knit siblings Dane, Dale, DeAndre and Jenive and father Martell Brown are struggling with the painful new reality that he is not returning home.
His sister Jenive had this to share – “ Daniel was a very God-fearing man. We all grew up in church and were taught to put God at the center of everything we do. He was a family man, he loved wholeheartedly. He found humor in everything and tried to make the best out of every difficult situation. He was loved by all who came in contact with him mainly because of his sense of humor and his down to earth personality. We were blessed to be born in a family of singers and that was one of his best talents. He could sing away any trouble. The happiest I have ever seen him was the day his first daughter was born. She brought even more light and joy to his life and it pushed him to work even harder and to become an even better person.”
His four year old daughter Skaiila, who has been so anxiously awaiting her daddy’s return, will never again feel his strong embrace. His one month old daughter Akalia will grow up never knowing how deeply her father loved her, even before he had a chance to hold her in his arms.
On Sunday night, October 15, coworkers at gathered together for an outdoor service where they had set up candles and photos outside the door of Daniel’s bunkhouse.
The following night they watched the livestream video of the community prayer meeting held at the Brown home where for 2 and a half hours the tributes and stories poured in. It was a small source of comfort for his coworkers who are struggling to cope emotionally after the death of another close friend and team member within the past few months
There are many questions from the families regarding Daniel and Kemars deaths that remain unanswered. The Jamaican Ministry of Labour has provided little to no support for them or the coworkers who have been traumatized by the experience. The Canadian government has never held an inquest into the death of a farm worker.
Despite these added challenges, families and friends are holding on to hope that this will change.
Listening to the stories of Daniel’s influence and the joy that he brought to so many was a moving experience that will continue to touch the lives of others. May his life continue to inspire us to be lifted up by love.