Category Archives: A Narrative History

HISTORICAL GEMS

I talk about my first encounter with historic individuals in Part 1 (A Personal Perspective) in which I reminisce about Gwendolyn Keith-Edwards. Gwen and I naturally gravitated to one another in my freshmen year of high school. I was extremely shy and so it was a relief to find a friend on that very first day on top of trying to fit in.

Her father, Luther C. Keith, was a prominent Catholic and real estate agent, who use to find property for the archdiocese of Detroit to purchase in order to build their churches and schools for new catholic communities in the city of Detroit. He helped  Fr. Norman Dukette procure a location for his first church, St. Benedict the Moor, a former Lutheran church. His brother (Gwen’s uncle) is the Honorable Judge Damon Keith. I discovered that Gwen’s mother was equally as active as her husband. She (Savella) was involved in civic affairs and they entertained foreign figures in their home. Gwen’s brother Luther A. Keith, former Detroit News’ senior editor & media consultant, did a tribute to his father in a Detroit News special section. He said he did not appreciate what his father’s legacy was until he got old enough to understand it. He and I talked about this extensively because I didn’t understand how talented my mother was until someone else pointed it out. We don’t realize the history we are surrounded with until it is written about and explored.

Mother Anna Bates who was the founder of our little church used to teach piano lessons to all the kids in the neighborhood including me. I went to school all those years and never knew who she really was.  And so I found many surprises as I delved into the history of OLV.

 

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Narrative History: Author Interview with Carol Hoenig, Publicist 2008

Q: Your book is a fascinating historical account of one particular church in the Detroit area. You did a wonderful job with the details. Why was it important for you to share this story?

A:  I felt like our history was about to be wiped out like so much of black written history is. In fact with a stroke of a pen it was wiped out by the Archdiocese of Detroit. I felt someone had to act and I was put in the right place to be the one to do it. I was working at Our Lady of Good Counsel where I got the inspiration.

 Q: How long did it take you to write it?

A: I started in 2002 and finished the manuscript by 2005. The book was published in 2007 with the help of the editing dept. from iUniverse.

Q: Was your family always Catholic or did you change religion in order to become members of Our Lady of Victory?

A: My family was baptized into the faith in 1955. My mother did not belong to a particular religion before then. She grew up in a sanctified church and felt that there had to be something better. My book explains how she found the faith. Really interesting!

 Q: One unique aspect about Our Lady of Victory was the Federal Credit Union that was in the basement of the church. In light of the financial crisis today, how do you think this organization would do today if it were still active?

A: It probably would do quite well. There is a credit union in my neighborhood and it is still there. The people back then were very innovative. I was impressed when I came to the realization of what these pioneers had done.

 Q:  Your book was published by iUniverse. Why did you decide to forfeit traditional publishing for a print-on-demand publisher?

A:  I took some not so good advice and did a pre-order promotion before the book even had a publisher. I was trying to really self publish. That didn’t work out because I had not found an editor and that held up the printing. I started to panic because I had all these people’s money and no book. A priest friend of mine recommended iUniverse because of the editing problems and that is how I abandoned self-publishing and went with them, which is a form of self-publishing anyway. I was trying to get the book out to my customers who waited a whole year patiently and were exceptionally patient. Traditional publishing would have also required that I send out query letters and manuscript or find an agent. I was not up to doing that. I was drained after the interviews, the research and trying to get the book to print.

 Q: What do you hope readers will learn from reading your book?

A: Most people do not know enough about black history and blacks especially don’t know enough about themselves. In order to move forward you have to know where you have been. At the very least it explains why the Black Catholic Church is losing ground in the Detroit area. I certainly have gotten enlightened once I learned the background because it explains why there are no Black priest today to keep our churches open. Most of the people I meet are former Catholics. That is alarming. I show a pattern of 4 Black churches closing down from similar experiences and now the church in general is in trouble here in this area and people need to know…the Pope needs to know how his flock is doing in America.

 Q: Are you writing another book?

A: I want to but it is very costly and money is very tight. I want to do a story about my family, particularly my father, who was something of a mystery man with a past. I also would like to do a story on the Black family in crisis. And there is the story of my tenure at the Detroit Free Press which is a lesson in business politics and race.  I haven’t taken the time to jot down my thoughts except on the Free Press story.

 

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