At times during the First Liberian Civil War, young Andreas Browne got on his knees and prayed for the opportunity to live. Now he calls his time in America his “second life.”
Browne grew up in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, on Africa’s western coast. His mother moved to the United States when he was young, but at his grandmother’s urging he stayed, graduating high school early, at age 16. He then went to join his mother in Michigan. It was 1995, shortly before Thanksgiving.
“I have still not gotten over how cold it was,” he says. “The closest thing I’ve felt from where I’m from is opening up the refrigerator.”
For me Wayne County has been a beautiful county to live in and America has been a beautiful country.
Because U.S. schools didn’t accept his transcripts, Browne enrolled in high school again, in Detroit. He spoke English with an accent, and some students openly mocked him in class. “At first it was a little difficult,” he says. Rather than get upset, he approached students privately and told them about his background. “So after a few months all of the problems were erased.”
Browne took the same bold and creative approach to his career. After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and working as a congressional aide in Washington, D.C., he decided to take up photography, enrolling in a design and photography program at Oakland Community College.
“When I took this risk, I thought, ‘What if I take all of my childhood ideas and bring those ideas to life now?’”
Browne’s business, Yellow Door Brand, provides photography and lab services, as well as clothing and shoe design. He employs six people, all of whom are from the Detroit area. Next up: the Yellow Door Foundation, through which he plans to expand his charitable giving and provide student scholarships. Already he donates his professional services to local causes, teaches photography and ballroom dancing at Wayne County Community College, and coaches youth soccer in his town of Grosse Pointe Farms.
“For me Wayne County has been a beautiful county to live in and America has been a beautiful country,” he says. “I want to be able to give back.”