Artist Interview with Kathya Alexander

Published: February 29, 2024

Categories: Artist Stories | Artists | Featured

“Writing, for me, has always been a way to make sense of the world in which I live, traveling as I am, clothed in the skin of Black woman”

In honor of Black History Month, we recently interviewed writer and educator Kathya Alexander to discuss her work, upcoming projects, and why supporting Black creatives is vital to the health of our communities.

Please introduce yourself and share a little about yourself and your background.

I’m a writer, playwright, storyteller, and teaching artist. Growing up in the South as a child of the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement greatly impacted my life and continues to influence my writing. While my novel and short stories tend to be more historical, my plays explore the beauty and complexity of contemporary African American life. My goal as a playwright is to investigate how living in America affects the lives of Black Americans and how life in this country is influenced by Black culture.

Kathya Alexander

Kathya Alexander, 2021 Artist Trust GAP recipient

What are you currently working on? Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?

I am very excited about all my upcoming projects, especially the release of my debut novel, Keep A’Livin’, by Aunt Lute Books. It is a beautifully lyrical novel-in-verse about a Negro family living through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. I am also currently working on several plays, including a re-write of The Negro Passion Play that tells the story of a Black Christ-like figure named Immanuel set during the very early days of the Civil Rights Movement, starting in the 1920s with the birth of a promised Messiah in Bethlehem, Mississippi who will lead his people to freedom. In addition, I am re-mounting a play I wrote in 2000, called Black To My Roots, about Black women and our hair as a personal, social, and political phenomenon that affects how we see ourselves and how America sees us based on their judgments about how we do our hair. My newest play, which is in the very early stages, is called Calling The Kettle Black, and is a re-telling of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof from the POV of the Black servants.

Keep A’Livin’, debut novel by Kathya Alexander

Keep A’Livin’, debut novel by Kathya Alexander releases 4/2/2024

What keeps your creative practice moving forward?

Writing, for me, has always been a way to make sense of the world in which I live, traveling as I am, clothed in the skin of  Black woman. I am also committed to telling the story of the Civil Rights Movement to a new generation. In addition to working with adults, I am also a teaching artist who works with African American youth guiding them to tell their own stories through poetry and plays. The stage is a magical place that I call the great equalizer because I have seen the positive effects it has had on youth that I have worked with for the past 30 years, often affecting their academics, their self-esteem, and their college and career choices.

How can Artist Trust continue to support Black artists in WA state?

Black artists have a difficult time moving into that rarefied air of being an established professional. Too often, we get stuck in the “emerging” artist category simply because we don’t get adequate sustained funding to take our art to the next level. Giving money directly to Black artists to combat systemic inequity in art supports the elevation and preservation of Black arts and culture. Investing in, lifting up, and celebrating the voices and work of Black artists helps to achieve a thriving, vibrant, inclusive, and equitable community that improves the artistic community as a whole.


Kathya Alexander is a writer, playwright, storyteller, and teaching artist. She was a Writer-in-Residence at Hedgebrook Writer’s Retreat and won the Fringe First Award for Black to My Roots: African American Tales from the Head and the Heart in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has also received awards from organizations including 4Culture, Office of Arts and Culture, Artist Trust, and Seattle Parks and Recreation. Alexander was a freelance writer for Colors NW Magazine and the South Seattle Emerald. She has been published in The Pitkin Review, Arkana Magazine, Pontoon Poetry, and Native Skin Magazine, as well as anthologies by the African American Writers Alliance (AAWA), and Raising Lily Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workplace by Lost Horse Press. Her playwriting credits include The Negro Passion Play; Black D*ck Matters; David & Jonathan: A Modern Day Retelling of the Biblical Story; and emotionalblackmale. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and her debut novel is scheduled for release in April 2024 by Aunt Lute Books.


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2024Black History MonthInterviewKathya Alexander