KATHRYN "KITSI" WATTERSON





"The moment we cease to hold each other The moment we break faith with one another The sea engulfs us and the light goes out."

-James Baldwin
I love stories. From the time I was a toddler, I wandered my neighborhood to hear them. Neighbors kept crayons and coloring books for me, fed me, and talked to me. I was desperate to learn how to live, and I floated on their voices into mesmeric dream clouds. By age ten, I started working—washing dishes at a drugstore, running errands, clerking, and later, feeding and bathing patients as a nurse's aid in various hospitals—all the time listening.

Growing up in mostly white mid-western and western towns, I never imagined the diverse life I would lead. For a kid whose big dream was to see a musical at Kansas City's Starlight Theater, it's been thrilling to travel and work in so many places. I'd have been elated to know that I would become a newspaper reporter in Florida; that witnessing segregation would lead me into a lifetime of working for justice—a journey mentored and enriched by African American friends and family; that I'd be the first woman to work fulltime in the newsroom of The Pittsburgh Press; live in a Chinese community in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, study Mandarin, and teach English-as-a-Second Language as a Peace Corp volunteer; be guided by Native American wisdom keepers; and have the joy of writing for a living.

After Malaysia, I moved to Philadelphia and went to work as a news reporter for The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Under the byline Kitsi Burkhart, I covered the anti-war Peace movement; Black liberation; women's rights; welfare rights, and prisoner's rights. Meeting one particular prisoner over 40 years ago motivated me to create a writing workshop at Holmesburg Prison, where my friendships with the men I taught eventually led me to investigate and write a series on Pennsylvania's prison system, and undertake my first book, Women in Prison.

I moved to New York City in the mid-1970s, became a mother, and taught occasional writing workshops at NYU, Fordham and the New School. A decade later I moved to Princeton, New Jersey, with my son and began teaching at Princeton University. In 2002, I returned to Philadelphia—the city of my heart—where I teach at the University of Pennsylvania and perform with a trio, PLP TheUnity (Peace, Love & Power The Unity). Brother Robb Carter, Dominic Cartwright and I have been drumming, singing and playing music together since 2005.



PLP @ The Rotunda, 1.22.10
http://vimeo.com/9243129