Born in the early 1800s, in the west African region of Senegambia, the area comprising the Senegal and Gambia Rivers and the land between them, or today's Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Mali, Malik was just a young boy when his kin were overtaken by a warring tribe and sold through the France controlled departure point in the Atlantic slave trade, the island of Goree next to modern Dakar. The island was used as a base to purchase slaves from the warring chiefdoms on the mainland.

He hardly recalls the voyage overseas in chains to the Americas where he was sold along with his mother to one plantation. His father and siblings were sold to another. He was sent to a plantation in the Carolinas at the age of six. His mother worked as a maid in the house while he worked in fields and barn with other children and men. Some spoke the same language, some did not. His mother learned English quickly, having little choice, and she taught him what she could. She knew the sooner he learned, the less likely he was to be traded or sold.

Sadly, it was not him that was sold, but her. When the master took a wife, he wanted his spouse to mind the house and sold Malik's mother. Malik was only eight years old at the time. The new Mistress of the House, Mary, renamed all the slaves Christian names and ensured that they were taught about Christ and the Christian ways. She named him Ezekiel after a Hebrew prophet in the old testament. She was kind and merciful. Her husband was not. If slaves attempted to escape, he was unforgiving. Witnessing a single beating was enough of a deterrent for most.

At sixteen, Ezekiel made his own attempt to leave. He knew his mother had been sold to a plantation nearby. He relied on word of mouth to find her location and once he was given promising intel, he went in search of her only to find out she'd died a month earlier due to illness. Lost without direction, he lingered town for perhaps too long and was recognized by Mary who had come into town for groceries. Instead of scolding him, the woman quickly pretended as if he'd come to town with her and ushered him home. She told her husband that she'd asked him to come along to excuse his absence. Ezekiel was beaten but he knew her lie had probably saved his life. The following day, the marks on her face revealed that the slaves were not the only ones who got the brunt of the rod. Her silence on his behalf perplexed him. All he'd known of this land's people was coldness and abuse.

The master moved him to working in the barn, minding the horses so that he could 'keep a better eye on' him. Ezekiel quickly found his fondness for horses made the work far more tolerable than hours under the sun in the field. He kept his head down and did his work for Mary's sake.

When he was twenty years of age, the Master woke him out of a sound sleep and pulled him inside the house, a place he'd never been. He'd never forget that day. Mary's crumpled body lay on the floor, a red ring around her neck. It was an accident the master said and he knew better than to disagree. The master ordered him to take her body out of the field where she'd be found in the morning and blame could be assigned elsewhere. He knew what that meant. He or one of the other slaves would be blamed and hang for this crime. He pretended to go along and took Mary's body out of the house, wrapped in a blanket. The Master stood on the porch, bottle in hand, watching him walk away.

But then he went back inside.

Ezekiel took her out to woods, far away from the plantation and gave her a proper Christian burial, the way she would have wanted it. Then, he kept going. He ran, traveling along the river and staying off the roads. He knew he was a thief now. His hands, his feet, they belonged to the master and he'd run off with them. But he didn't look back.

After two days of hiding by day and walking by night, he came across several black men on a backwoods trail, keeping off the roads as well. They didn't have to speak a word to one another, they knew they were walking the same road. The oldest of the group told him they had a connection waiting on the other side of the river. When they crossed, they met several people, both black and white, who ferried them to another stop in what he'd come to understand was the underground railroad.

They made it North to Virginia within the week. One of the 'stations' they stopped at overnight belonged to a white couple. The wife, Samantha, was exceptionally kind and reminded him of the late Mary. He kept moving until he reached the free states.

He lived an entire year in the north, trying to get word of his father and siblings without luck. As time went on, he knew he couldn't continue to standby and do nothing. He was most likely a wanted man down south, assuming he'd been blamed for Mary's death. But he knew he had to do something to help his fellow man. He talked to his connections and began working as a 'conductor' from Virginia to Canada. He would travel to Virginia, meet at Samantha's estate and escort the 'passengers' north to freedom.

Oddly, however, Samantha insisted on teaching him how to defend himself with a sword. He assumed it was due to it being a far more silent way to defend himself and freed slaves than a gun. A gun shot would draw attention to them. He wasn't a worldly man so he assumed her weapons education came from her European background.

He ran this route for nearly twenty years. He worked with a wide network of connections, but he was most fond of Ms. Samantha. He loved sitting and talking with her and her husband, Joseph. Every time he came to stay, she'd teach him more about hand to hand combat. He admired them both: they opened their home to strangers, putting themselves in danger in the process. They had become like a family.

As controversy over slavery began to heat up across the nation, Joseph volunteered to fight for the union army. Ezekiel was once again inspired by the man and joined with him. There he was finally recognized by the United States government as a free man. He was told to choose a last name and Joseph suggested Gideon from Judges 6:1. Gideon was a brave soldier who delivered the Israelites from the Midians in the Old Testament. This name meant 'Great warrior'.

They fought for a year before the Battle of Antietam in September 17, 1862 which took Joseph's life and severely injured Ezekiel. He was left behind under the care of a doctor with a grim prognosis. Oddly, however, by the next morning he felt great... better than ever. Still, he's been dismissed from the army and told to return 'home'. He didn't have a home so he went to the only place he ever felt like home, to Samantha.

He arrived with ill tidings, having to tell her of Joseph's death. Her estate had been burned to the ground, so he stayed with her while she rebuilt and mourned. It was several months before he decided to return to the battlefront. That's when Samantha told him the truth of what he was, why he's recovered so easily and why she'd taught him how to defend himself with a blade.

After digesting the shocking news, he decided to remain with her instead of re-enlist, learning more and more about who they were and their ways.

When the war ended, he really had no idea what to do with himself. All he'd know was slavery and fighting for freedom. He ended up staying with Samantha, he'd come to learn her real name was Samsi, for several years. Their relationship shifted over time and eventually, grew more intimate.

She ultimately donated the remains of the estate to the government and expressed a desire to return to Iran. At that time, he simply could not go back on a ship across the sea. Instead, he decided to stay state side and committed himself to organizations that aided freed slaves and rallied support for laws and movements to aid those who had absolutely nothing.

In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution granted African Americans the rights of citizenship. However, this did not translate into the ability to vote. Black voters were systematically turned away from state polling places, including Ezekiel. He spoke out and fought against the oppression. Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 promising black men the right to vote.

In the mid 1870s, he went out west for a time, riding horseback to run cattle back and forth between sellers and buyers. He remained out west until World War II.

After Pearl Harbor, he joined the Army and was part of the 452nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery battalion, an all African American mobile anti-aircraft artillery unit. Comprising fewer than 1,000 soldiers, including support staff, the unit is credited with having destroyed 88 German warplanes, 68 of which were fully confirmed kills. His combat unit landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944. They were one of only two African-American military units to come ashore in France on D-Day.

After the war, he didn't return home but rather visited Africa, a place he could not even recall. He stayed for ten years before finally going back to the United States.

In the 1970s, he began to teach history. It was easy considering he'd been a part of it. He taught for twenty years at a city high school before moving into social work with a focus on placing foster children in good homes.