Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon

1996 Wallace Fellow
Writer, poet and playwright.
Philadelphia, PA

Dr. Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon's work at AAS focused on the life and times of the first published African-American poet, Lucy Terry, who wrote "Bars Fight" in 1746. She is currently working on the performance piece From Safe to Brave.

Originally sponsored by the Lumina Foundation for Racial Justice and Equity, (a division of the Rockefeller Foundation) From Safe to Brave was one of the many outcomes from a research project conducted by Temple University and Drs. Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, Elizabeth Sweet, Tiffenia Archie, Sonja Peterson-Lewis, Rickie Sanders Karen Turner, Valerie Dudley and NuRodney Prad. (2018-19) That research team conducted quantitative and qualitative research in and around race, racism and the rise of hate crimes on college campuses here in and around the Temple University community (Fall 2018). In addition to producing scores of 8-foot framed Body Maps, visually representing the trauma of race and racism in America and on our college campuses, that research included a series of Interactive Community Conversation (ICC’s) conducted during fall (2018) in and around the university community with over 50 participants crafting and gathering ethnography and personal narratives on memory, resilience and individuals’ personal experiences with race and racism in America.

The performance piece From Safe to Brave, which grew out of that research was first presented live on stage in Randall Theater (April 23-24, 2019) and now, has been remounted in a virtual world, as a way to contribute to the conversations around race, anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion in this historical moment.

Check out this inter-generational tapestry of community voices who use memory, narrative, song, poetry and dance to speak poignantly about the impact of race, racism and contemporary events in American culture. Be a part of the sights, sounds, songs, poetry and personal narratives of young and old alike on one of the most difficult but important topics in America—conversations on Race—as we move From Safe to Brave.


About the Fellow

Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, PhD (Cultural Anthropology), M.A. (Anthropology), MFA (Theater), Graduate Certificate) Women's Studies, B.A. (Journalism); is an Associate Professor of Urban Theater and Community Engagement in the Theater Department in the School of Theater, Film and Media Arts in the Center for the Performing and Cinematic Arts and Vice President of the Faculty Senate at Temple University. Williams-Witherspoon is the author of Through Smiles and Tears: The History of African American Theater (From Kemet to the Americas) (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2011); The Secret Messages in African American Theater: Hidden Meaning Embedded in Public Discourse (Edwin Mellen Publishing, 2006).

She was the Principal Investigator on the $50,000. Lumina foundations Fund for Racial Justice and Equity grant (2018-19), for the Interactive Community Conversations and performance, “Moving from Safe Space to Brave Space”, she is a recipient of the 2020, TUAA Stauffer Faculty Service Award, the 2013 The Miriam Maat Ka Re Award for scholarship; the 2013 Associate Provosts Arts Grant; 2008 Seed Grant, 2003 Provost’s Arts Grant; 2001 Independence Foundation Grant, the 2000 PEW fellowship, the 1999 DaimlerChrysler National Poetry Competition; the 1996, Lila Wallace Creative Arts Fellowship with the American Antiquarian Society and a two-time returning playwright with the Minneapolis Playwrights' Center and Pew Charitable Trusts Playwrights Exchange. Williams-Witherspoon has had over 32 plays produced. Her stage credits include over 20 productions, 8 one-woman shows and she has performed poetry in over 110 national and international venues. Williams-Witherspoon is a contributing poet to 38 anthologies, author of 11 books of poetry. The author of 9 book chapters, 7 journal articles and 2 books on African American Theater. She is the recipient of a host of awards and citations. Her scholarly work centers around pedagogy, women’s issues, the African diaspora, performance rituals and community engagement.

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