Bill "Damani" Keene
About three years ago, at age 69, I stood – with my wife Ife at my side – for the first time at the gravesites of my grandparents and great grandparents in Franklin, Tennessee at the cemetery aptly named for Toussaint L’Ouverture, the great Haitian revolutionary and hero.
Pouring libation, visiting the Carnton plantation where Mariah had been enslaved, and standing at a 148-year old crime scene had transformed me from a tourist to a committed story-teller.
- Damani was born in New York, met Ife the second day of their freshman year at Howard and they married in their senior year. They have three grown children, three grandchildren, three special grands and two great grands.
Carole "Ife" Keene
Ife, Contributing Author, was born in Knoxville, Tenn, completed 1st grade in Brevard, North Carolina and grew up in Camden, New Jersey, where she graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School before attending Howard University.
“During our fifty-two year marriage, Damani and I have made many wonderful and blessed journeys together, but I can honestly say this is one of the most important to date. In various ways it encompasses all of the other journeys, including those that exemplify: the importance and love of family and friends; the significance of knowing one’s family heritage; the impact of making a meaningful contribution in all aspects of one’s life, and the effect of gaining knowledge of the true history of our people – African people.“
Bolen and Mariah Reddick
The pilgrimage with my wife to the graves of Bolen and Mariah Reddick (ABOVE), my maternal great grandparents, and John Watt and Della Reddick, my grandparents, was a turning point in an off and on family heritage search spanning ten years.
During that inspiring 2014 visit to Franklin the idea began to take shape that I should be the one to tell the story of Mariah and her family.
As the idea took hold, I would wake up in the middle of the night and make notes. Once I embraced the vision and began to write, I asked Ife, a twice published author for her expert assistance and she is Contributing Author of what has evolved into:
CLANDESTINE: The Times and Secret Life of Mariah Otey Reddick
This Book is the Story of Your Ancestors, Too!
On this website you can enjoy the journey while you rediscover the splendor, beauty, pain and glory of a People whose history has been thoroughly distorted and tragically unsung.
In piecing together the history of a People, who for centuries were regarded and treated as two-legged property, you will experience pride, frustration, anger, disbelief, joy, and a shared sense of dignity.
In a unique process (to be announced later), we will offer YOU the opportunity to participate in putting the final touches on our upcoming historical novel.
We would be delighted if YOU would come along as we go to press this year!!!
© Art by Akili Ron Anderson www.akilironanderson.com
Ashamed that I had not ever come to honor my Ancestors before, I was awed by their sacrifices and achievements, some of which I had only recently become aware.
I was nonetheless proud and humbled to pour libation in the African tradition. I “thanked them in the grave” for making possible my life of relative comfort despite continuing injustices and hardships for our People.
Those injustices and hardships, against which my Ancestors struggled, had shaped my life, informed my thinking, influenced my choice of a life’s work and motivated me to a degree of activism throughout my life.