With formal release date set, family of Detroit man jailed in China already planning his first meal

Most families don't plan a Thanksgiving dinner in September.

But Antoinette Brown's family is not like most others. Her son has been jailed in China for years. With so much time separating her from the last day she saw her son, such an oddly-timed meal can be forgiven.

"We already got a big Thanksgiving meal planned for him when he gets home," Antoinette said. "I know he'll probably have to adjust to his eating, but we're ready to help move forward."

Brown and her family have been waiting for a while. Wendell Brown, a star athlete who traveled to China to play and coach football for kids there left in 2016. During his tenure, he was at a bar celebrating a friend's birthday when a fight broke out.

Individuals were intoxicated and bottles were thrown. While Brown never instigated the fight, he remains the only one who was arrested from the night's event. He's been jailed in China ever since.

"He the leader of this family and you know, we need him," Antoinette said. "So I'm extremely excited. I can't wait 'til he get here, just to hug him. Help him move forward you know."

"It's so devastating."

The family has made numerous attempts to help free Wendell - going so far as to contact the U.S. President. Any progress on their side has been met with stonewalling and static bureaucracy from the Chinese government. 

As of July 22, Wendell's release date is Sept. 24. But even that date comes with hurdles.

"We recently discovered that is the date he gets released back to the Public Securities Bureau in China and they have their own process to go through in order to deport a foreigner back to his home country," said Dan Redford, a public relations consultant.

Redford used to live in China. In the past few years, he's befriended the Browns and offered them assistance. 

"So we are working with the State Department, the U.S. Consulate and with our attorneys over there to make sure they get all of what they need to get done prior to his release," said Redford.

Mom of Detroiter imprisoned in China for alleged bar fight asks president for help

Detroit man imprisoned in China gets sentence reduced 1 year
Detroit man imprisoned in China hopes for a new chance at freedom

With so much fog clouding the future of Brown's release, his mother is still holding out hope for his return. If her pleas aren't enough, then the words "Momna Brown" emblazoned on the back of her shirt should be validation.

"He's a Detroit, American native and we are ready to welcome him home," Antoinette said.