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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

A Friendship That Rose Above Race

Francis MandewahRarely have I read so  many enthusiastic reviews of a book as those lavished upon Friendship **, the memoir of Sierre Leone-born  Francis (Konomueh) Mandewah.

But while the author’s global, death-defying adventures are being promoted on the back of Hollywood political thriller Blood Diamond, it is crystal clear that a life-affirming joy of every day and his devout Christian faith  are the true stars of his story.

Mandewah relates with vivid recall a life of rural poverty and domestic brutality at the hands of a distant cousin that was overturned by a chance meeting with US pilot Thomas Johnson.

The American, who had been flying diamonds and other gems from Yengema to Freetown in Sierra Leone, paid for Mandewah’s education locally before helping him through college in the US. Friendship

However, Mandewah’s path to the States was not easy and he experienced a thrilling, terrifying, sometimes life-threatening self-imposed initiation into adulthood by travelling across the Sahara Desert to reach Europe, where he lived first in Sicily, then Greece, enjoying what appear to be the happiest, most successful years of his life.

Certainly, he excels at all farming duties because of his rural upbringing and I ask him here, with the benefit of hindsight, whether he would have been better served studying agriculture with a view to farming in his own right?

However, after graduating with degrees from three US colleges, Mandewah worked as a probation and parole agent in Wisconsin and for reasons not wholly comprehensible even on careful reading, he fell foul of his superiors and spent many years and a small fortune suing first for wrongful arrest and then dismissal from his job.

Mandewah now lives in Ferguson, Missouri where race riots erupted in August 2014 following the fatal police shooting of Mike Brown, a black unarmed teeanger.

He says: “It was a white man who laid the foundation and paved the way for me to come to America so I could realise the American dream. Our friendship transcended race, and has built a positive connection between the races. We can overcome racism through friendship and positive cross--cultural relationships.”

**Friendship: A True Story of Adventure, Goodwill, and Endurance is available from Amazon on Kindle @ $2.99 and Paperback @ $14.99.

© Natalie Wood (02 November 2016)

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