Poet and professor Kathryn Waddell Takara was born in 1943 in Tuskegee, Alabama to Lottie and Dr. William Waddell IV. After graduating from George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania, she earned her B.A. degree from Tufts University in 1965. Takara went on to receive her M.A. degree in French from the University of California at Berkeley in 1969, and her Ph.D. degree in political science from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa in 1995.
In 1971, Takara joined the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa as an assistant professor, where she developed courses in African American and African politics, history, literature, and culture. During her thirty-one year career at the university, she rose to associate professor in the university’s Interdisciplinary Studies Program and taught French. Her poetry has been published in a variety of publications including; Interdisciplinary Studies Humanities Journal, Honolulu Stories, Words Upon the Waters, The African Journal of New Poetry, Arkansas Review, Africa Literary Journal, Julie Mango Press, Poetry Motel, Peace & Policy, From Totems to Hip Hop, Hawai`i Review, Chaminade Literary Review, All She Wrote: Hawai`i Women s Voices, and World of Poetry, An Anthology. Her essays have appeared in the Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, The Black Scholar, Multi-America: Essays on Cultural Wars and Cultural Peace, The Western Journal of Black Studies, and The Honolulu Advertiser. She performed her poetry and lectured extensively throughout the Hawaiian Islands, the Continental United States, and in Beijing and Qingdao, China. In 2003, Takara launched Pacific Raven Press, serving as its owner, editor, and publisher. She published three books of poetry: New and Collected Poems in 2003, Pacific Raven: Hawaii Poems in 2009, and Tourmalines: Beyond the Ebony Portal in 2010. She also released a poetic trilogy, including the books Love’s Seasons in 2014, Zimbabwe Spin in 2015, and Shadow Dancing: $elling $urvival in China in 2016.
Takara was the recipient of the University of Hawai’i Board of Regents Outstanding Teacher Award and was a two-time Fulbright Fellow, in 1966 and 1996. She received the 2010 American Book Award for her published work Pacific Raven: Hawai`i Poems. She was knighted into the Orthodox Order of St. John, Russian Grand Priory in 2014, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Education and African American history and culture in Hawai’i from the NAACP in 2016.
Kathryn Takara was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 10, 2019.