By Andria Y. Carter
Cincinnati’s truth warrior with words, Kathy Y. Wilson, 57, has died after a decade of health challenges. Her death on November 22, 2022, comes two years after she received a kidney, which failed. But her health challenges did not stop her from teaching and challenging the greater Cincinnati area to continue to lift life’s blinders and see the truth and do something about it.
The Walnut Hills residents lived in the neighborhood with her partner, Kandice, of 11 years.
For those who did not know or had the pleasure of reading her former column “Your Negro Tour Guide” in City Beat got a chance to experience her wit, her frank truthfulness and hopeful opinion when the Ensemble Theater featured her one-act play “Your Negro Tour Guide” during their 2021-22 season.
The Ensemble Theater featured an updated version of the play based upon her column “Your Negro Tour Guide” and her commentaries that appeared on National Public Radio. She also authored a book “Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black and White.” The play and the book featured her at times barbed whit, her frank observations of Cincinnati happenings, and no one escaped her criticism. From the LGBTQ+ community, Black beauty, Black homophobia, intra-racial bigotry, and other cultural stereotypes to the political structure all were targets for her column.
In a Cincinnati Magazine article, Wilson discussed why she updated the play. She noted that the play has needs and demands remixing. She said cultural references are always updating and she needed to stay in touch with the changes so the play can be updated accordingly. She described the play as a mirror and mood ring of America.
The article asked Wilson how she thinks her work will be remembered, and she answered saying it will be “raucous, verbose, angry, honest, hilarious, necessary, thoughtful, loving and just good.”
In 2007, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park produced the original version of Wilson’s play. Her play would be also produced by Valdosta State University and The National Women’s Studies Association, both in 2008. In 2011, the University of Kentucky produced the play and the Cincinnati Fringe Festival in 2012.
Kathy Wilson was a fearless author who was not afraid to face the truth, tell the truth and expect people to either accept her or move on. In 2014, she served as the first writer-in-residence at the Public Library of Hamilton County. During her two-month stint she shared stories about her life, her career, and the community. She also provided an inside view of the writing process, discussing her creative process.
In 2017, Greater Cincinnati got a chance to experience Kathy in her home with an exhibit entitled “Sanctuary: Kathy Y. Wilson Living in a Colored Museum.” The Weston Gallery exhibit featured items from her salon-style living room in East Walnut Hills. Items featured included art from local artists, an array of racist objects, family photos, and other Black memorabilia.
Kathy Wilson was born to Clarence Wilson and Gladine Parrish who lived in Hamilton, Ohio until their divorce. Her mother moved to Forest Park with Wilson, her older brothers, and younger sister. She graduated from Greenhills High School and attended the University of Cincinnati.
Her journalism career started at the Hamilton Journal-News where she worked for five years. She moved on and worked for City Beat, an alternative weekly newspaper, from 1999 through 2006, where she created the opinion column “Your Negro Tour Guide,” and continued it from 2012 to 2015.
Wilson served as a commentator for National Public Radio (NPR) “All Things Considered,” and wrote for City Beat, Cincinnati Magazine, and the Cincinnati Enquirer. She also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati.