When MP Brown arrived in Fort Dodge from Mississippi, he didn’t have much. What he did have was an apparent knack for business and the willingness to work very hard.
As a result, Brown became one of the first Black business owners in Fort Dodge. His legacy was honored Saturday during a Juneteenth celebration hosted by Athletics for Education and Success.
The event featured dances, food, information on Black history, wellness checks and games. It all took place at the AFES buildings on Third Street Northwest.
Juneteenth commem-orates June 19, 1865. That’s the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced that slavery had been abolished. That action came some three years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves. The arrival of federal troops to enforce the proclamation in Galveston is considered to be the final end of slavery in the United States.
Charles Clayton, the executive director of AFES, referred to an oak tree to explain the importance of Juneteenth to Black Americans. He said if you plant an oak in a pot it will be confined and only grow to a quarter of its potential size. But he said if you plant it in an open field, it will grow and reach its full strength.
“African Americans were at one point in a pot,” he said.
Thanks to the events of Juneteenth, they are no longer in that pot, he said.
“This day is very important to me for that reason,” Clayton said.
During its Juneteenth celebrations, AFES honors a local citizen. This year’s honoree was the late MP Brown. A plaque was presented to his grandson, Ira Shivers.
Brown moved to Fort Dodge from Meridian, Mississippi, in the 1950s or 1960s. In Fort Dodge, he owned Brown’s Cafe in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood, MP’s Chicken at First Avenue South and Seventh Street, a ceramics store, rental properties, and an arcade that offered pool, pinball and candy. He also had an interest in a grocery store in Pleasant Valley called Two Sisters, which was owned by his wife, Charlie Mae Brown, and his sister-in-law, Matti Lee Preston.
MP Brown did all that while working fulltime as a janitor at Iowa Central Community College.
Clayton described MP Brown as the first African-American entrepreneur in Fort Dodge.
Shivers said his grandfather’s businesses were in operation from the 1970s to the mid 1990s. He said his grandfather died unexpectedly and the businesses eventually closed.
Shivers said his grandfather’s example inspired him to open TC Mae’s restaurant in Fort Dodge. He said recipes from Brown’s Cafe and MP’s Chicken are used at TC Mae’s, which is now owned by his brother.
MP Brown’s son, Danny Brown, missed the presentation because he was outside grilling chicken, burgers and hot dogs for those who attended the celebration.
He said his father “instilled a lot of nice things” in his children.
“He was my hero,” Danny Brown said. “Everybody else has Superman or some other hero. My dad was my hero.”
“Besides being a great Black man, he was a great man,” he added. “He helped whenever and however he could.”
The celebration began at about noon with an opening prayer by Simeon Roberts.
Flags were brought into the room by local young people. Kyler Preston brought the American flag, Amaris Kirkland held the African-American flag, Janaye Newsome carried the Pan-African flag and Brandon Newsome carried the Juneteenth flag.
Al Womble, the president of the Iowa Democratic Black Caucus, talked about why people should not only vote but also work for the candidates and issues that they support.
To make his point, he recalled an election for class president when he was in elementary school. He said he did not work for his friend in that election. Someone else won the election, and that girl had a big idea for an Easter pageant. The end result was that Womble had to walk around in a ridiculous Easter bonnet.
“Elections are important,” he said. “They affect and change our lives.”
Kinley Walker, Jazmyn Dillard and Layla Taylor wrapped up the program with vigorous solo dance routines.