Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz is a essayist, poet, activist and academic, born in 1945 in Brooklyn, New York.
Her grandparents emigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe, Poland and Russia.
Kaye/Kantrowitz was active in the Harlem Civil Rights Movement as a teenager.
When she was 17, she worked with the Harlem Education Project, a project of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. About this she says “It was my first experience with a mobilizing proud community and with the possibilities of collective action.”
She associates her activism with her Jewish upbringing, stating that it was related to her family's Jewish cultural and political heritage “as much as the candles we lit for Hanukkah, or the Seders where bread and matzoh shared the table.’ She states in her essay, To Be a Radical Jew in the Late 20th Century that her “parents had not pushed (her) into activism, yet clearly they raised (her) to do these things.”
In 1966 Kaye/Kantrowitz left New York for Graduate School in Berkeley, California. From there, she moved to Portland, Oregon, remaining there until 1979. She then spent a couple years in New Mexico.