• Bio

    SHORT BIO:

     

    Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa is a 25-year-old Black, Kenyan, Immigrant, Queer, Womyn poet in New Orleans, LA. Ranked 3rd and 8th at the 2015 & 2016 Individual World Poetry Slam, FreeQuency is an Anti-Racist and Reproductive Justice organizer who has spent most of her life living and writing at the intersection of arts, education and activism. In New Orleans, she organizes & advocates with BYP100-NOLA and Women With A Vision, does youth work & poetry with the New Orleans Youth Open Mic and Team Slam New Orleans (Team SNO) and is an African Culture/Fashion Blogger with Noirlinians. View her work at www.FreeQuencySpeaks.com & www.Noirlinians.com.

     

    FULL LENGTH BIO:

     

    Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa is a Kenyan born, New Orleans based spoken word artist, organizer and youth worker. Known for her social justice work and poetry, FreeQuency has been described as 'challenging', 'dynamic', and it has been said on numerous occasions that "the room isn't the same after hearing FreeQuency spit".

     

    A Queer, Black Immigrant Womyn poet, FreeQuency has been featured on Upworthy, the New York Times, Teen Vogue, OkayAfrica, the Huffington Post, Everyday Feminism, BUST Magazine, Melissa Harris-Perry's Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race and Politics in the South, the National Journal, All Def Poetry, Button Poetry, BalconyTV and other sources for her work on and off the stage. A TEDx speaker, she has been invited to to speak/perform at various conferences, community centers and colleges/universities across the country. In 2013, FreeQuency was voted the RAW New Orleans Performing Artist of the Year and the WhoDat Poets Rookie of the Year. A 2014, 2015 & 2016 member of Team Slam New Orleans (ranked 3rd nationally in 2014), FreeQuency placed 5th at the 2014 Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival, 3rd at the 2014 SouthWest ShootOut Individual Competition and 10th overall at the 2015 Women of the World Poetry Slam. Most recently, FreeQuency 3rd & 8th at the 2015 & 2016 Individual World Poetry Slam

     

    In addition to writing and performing poetry, FreeQuency has published articles in The Grio, For Harriet, the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campus Leadership Network and is currently a founding member of the New Orleans chapter of the Black Youth Project 100 (the first BYP100 Southern Chapter), a founding committee member and host of the New Orleans Youth Open Mic (NOYOM), a blogger with the AfroFashion and Culture Blog Noirlinians and a member of Wildseeds: The New Orleans Octavia Butler Emergent Strategy Collective. She currently works at Women With A Vision, a social justice non-profit whose major focus areas include Reproductive Justice outreach, HIV+ Women's Advocacy, Sex Worker Rights and Drug Policy Reform.

  • Booking + Contact

    Want FreeQuency to feature at your show? Got another request?

    Word. Then use the form below.

     

  • Buy "BECOMING//BLACK" today!

    For BULK or INTERNATIONAL orders,

    email FreeQuencySpeaks@gmail.com

  • Upcoming Events, Performances, Slams, Workshops & Features

    Stay tuned for the 2017 calendar 

    May 15-20th, 2017

    Breaking Down Borders African Youth Summit
    Johannesburg, South Africa

    Featured Performer & Speaker

    In the conversation “Creative voices beyond colonisation and resistance politics” panelists will take delegates into their world, sharing how they established presence through their initiatives. Audience will hear how art based activists use their creativity as a means to effect change, giving voice to issues on the ground and telling stories of political unrest and instability.

     

    ABOUT THE SUMMIT: The Breaking Down Borders Africa Initiative serves as one of those initiatives through which young Africans have joined forces to unite and change the trajectory of the continent. Founded by world dance champion and award winning philanthropist, Paul Modjadji, the initiative is a multi-phased project involving other young Africans in a quest to craft solutions to challenges faced by young people of Africa.

    May 21st, 2017 | 3pm

     

    CSP Poetry Games

    Johannesburg Theatre

    Featured Performer

    See FreeQuency performing live at the Johannesburg national theatre. Details to come

    May 23, 2017 | 20:00

    Grounding Sessions Open Mic Africa Night
    Cape Town, South African

    Located at

    The Drawing Room Cafe (87 Station Road, Observatory)

      

    March 23rd sees Topollo T-Man Mokhathi and FreeQuency aka FreeQ Tha Mighty as the featured poets.

    The theme is: Africa
    Join us at : The Drawing Room Café , 87 Station Road , Observatory
    Date: 23rd March

    Time: 8:00 PM

    For more information on the event please visit our Facebook page:
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grounding-Sessions/23632330642734

    May 24th, 2017 | 19:00 | R50

    The Poetry Hide Out

    Featured Performer

    Located at The Hide Out Bar

    CurioCity, Maboneng

     

    See flyer for details

    May 27th, 2017 | 9pm doors/10pm show | $5-$20 suggested donation

    Southern Fried Queer Pride Festival
    Atlanta, Georgia

    Featured Performer

    The Mammal Gallery

    91 Broad St SW, Atlanta, Georgia 30303

     

    Doors open at 9PM. Showtime at 10PM. All ages. Door is $5-$20 sliding scale. Funds go to the performers and to Southern Fried Queer Pride. Full festival details can be found at southernfriedqueerpride.com/sfqp2017

    Southern Fried Queer Pride is a queer & trans people of color-led, arts festival and activist organization based in Atlanta, GA. Built on the backbones of MondoHomo, SFQP is a Southern echo of the Stonewall Riots for queer liberation. SFQP offers a platform for artists, activists, and community to expand Southern narratives of gender, race, sexuality, and politcal power. SFQP is a community organized and funded event. All SFQP events have a suggested $5 to $20 sliding scale door cover, however, no one will be turned away due to lack of funds.

    June 2nd, 2017 | 9pm-1am | $5

    Noirlinians Afrobeat Party

    New Orleans, Louisiana

    Host

    1474 N Broad Street

    New Orleans, LA, 70119

    Join us June 2nd for our first Afrobeat party with Nigerian Afrobeat DJ NattyOJ and New Orleans own DJ Chill (from the BJG).

    Come ready to dance, wear your flyest prints you can get down in

    $5 to get in.

    Next party during Essence, date TBA

    June 4th, 2017 | 7-9pm | $5

    Team SNO Open Mic/Slam

    New Orleans, LA

    Performer & Host

    Ashé Cultural Arts Center

    1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd,

    New Orleans, Louisiana 70113

    The members of Team SNO are gearing up for the summer slam season, but before we go to represent our fair New Orleans, we want to give the dopest show at home. June's monthly open mic and slam will feature none other than the boy wonder, Jahman Hill. Jahman is a Bayou City Slam finalist and all around lyrical genius. He's a fellow southerner and a rising star in the world of poetry. You don't want to miss this, family. Meet us in the usual spot, Ashe Cultural Arts center, June 4th at 1712 O.C. Haley Blvd.

    June 7th, 2017 | 9pm doors

    Nuyorican Poets Cafe Open Mic

    New York City

    One of the young poets I work with will be getting a scholastic award in NY so I'm coming with her. Come find me at the Nuyorican Weds open mic as we both sign the list to perform

     

    ABOUT NUYORICAN: All poets welcome. Come and perform your best poems, and compete for a chance to be invited back to our cafe for our Friday Night Poetry Slam! Take a chance, show us what you’ve got, wow the crowd with your words and leave them begging to hear more.

    June 12th, 2017 | 7pm-12am | $10

    4.0 (by Force of Nature LLC)

    Los Angeles, CA

    Featured Performer

    Located at The SOL Venue
    313 E Carson St. Carson, CA

    Doors open @ 7pm • $10

    Pre-sale tickets available

     

    The 4.0 event series is a place where artistic expressions comes alive. A place where you mingle with minds alike and experience different forms of art in a non traditional way!

  • Videos

    Check out videos of FreeQuency's poetry and speaking engagements

    "Lessons on Being An African Immigrant in America"

     

    Filmed by the good folks at Poetry Slam Inc on finals stage at the 2014 National Poetry Slam in Oakland where Slam New Orleans took 3rd place overall.

    "The Joys of Motherhood" 

     

    Filmed by the good folks at Button Poetry during the 2015 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Albuquerque, New Mexico where FreeQuency placed 10th overall

    Black Girls Rock

    Filmed by the good folks at Write About Now Poetry during a Write About Now feature in Houston, TX

    The "I'm Sorry" Poem

    Filmed by the good folks over at Button Poetry during the 2016 Southern Fried Poetry Slam where Team SNO won for the first time.

    The 7 Deadly American Sins

     

    Filmed by the good folks over at Button Poetry during the 2014 Texas Grand Slam where FreeQuency placed 5th overall

    "The Princess Poem"

     

    Filmed by the good folks at Button Poetry during the 2015 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Albuquerque, New Mexico where FreeQuency placed 10th overall

    "For Sandra Bland"

     

    Filmed by the good folks at Poetry Slam Inc. at the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam where FreeQuency tied for 3rd place overall

    "Dear White People"

     

    Filmed by the good folks at Poetry Slam Inc. at the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam where FreeQuency tied for 3rd place overall

    TEDx Talk on Unlearning

    (Poem at end of talk - "For John Mac") - May be incompatible with some computers

     

    "Education has always had a shaping force in spoken word poet and Tulane student Mwende Katwiwa's life. In this powerful TEDxTalk talk, Mwende, who performs under the stage name FreeQuency and received a standing ovation at the end of the talk, describes the challenges she faced while volunteering at a failing high school in New Orleans."

    Embracing Weakness (A Poem for Strong Black Women)

     

    Filmed by the good people at Poetry Slam Inc. during semi-finals for the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, CA where Slam New Orleans took 3rd place overall!

    GROUP PIECES

    Colored Lens

    A Scribe Called & FreeQuency, Team SNO 2014

     

    Filmed by Russell Simmons' All Def Poetry during a showcase at the 2014 National Poetry Slam

    Keep On Token

    FreeQuency & Akeem Olaj of Team SNO 

     

    Filmed by the good folks over at Write About Now during the 2015 Southern Fried Poetry Slam

    "American Rape Culture"

    FreeQuency and Desiree Dallagiacomo

     

    Filmed by the good folks at Button Poetry for the 2014 National Poetry Slam 

    Audio

    Slam New Orleans aka Team SNO is a collective of performance poets, educators, youth workers, activists and students that strive to promote spoken word poetry as a means of artistic expression, community engagement and literacy expansion. Team SNO has attended 4 of the past 5 National Poetry Slam competitions, earning 3 national titles in this short amount of time. We’ll be featuring three of the groups poets: Honey Sanaa, Kataalyst Alcindor and Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa. Originally aired on April 13th 2016.

     

    My last mix was a retrospective on 90s Hip Hop that included no rappers who identify as female. Obviously this was not on purpose, but it is absolutely proof positive of how deeply I have internalized the patriarchy. Some of the best rappers of all time identify as women, so I've decided to create a mix that only includes female MCs and spoken word artists.

     

    "The fierce willingness to repudiate domination in a holistic manner is the starting point for progressive cultural revolution." - bell hooks

     

    Photo credit: www.renetimmermans.com/

     

    Shaun is joined by Mwende Katwiwa (AKA FreeQuency) from Team Slam New Orleans, the city’s award winning (they got first place in both the 2012 and 2013 National Poetry Slam) slam poetry team. Originally aired August 6th 2015.

    Mwende Katwiwa aka Freequency talks with Gahiji on her book and experience “Becoming Black.”

  • Social Media

    Facebook: FreeQuency aka FreeQ tha Mighty

    Twitter: @FreeQthaMighty

    Instagram: @MwenderInSuspenders

  • FreeQuency in the News

    "5 Powerful Spoken Word Poetry Performances by Women You Need to Watch Right Now"

    4.27.2016 | Teen Vogue

    Not only does FreeQuency carefully pick a witty title for this piece, she digs right into society’s affinity for slut shaming. The work points out that when women experience sexually assault, they are regularly shamed and held responsible, while their attackers are liberated from blame. What’s even more shocking is the way the poet fearlessly takes politicians to task by pointing out their deficiencies when it comes to confronting rape culture.

     

    Read the rest of the article here

     

    ANOTHER RAPE POEM: A LIST OF POEMS THAT BREAK THE SILENCE ON SEXUAL ASSAULT + RAPE CULTURE

    3.9.2016 | Words Dance Publishing

    I’ve been thinking a lot about rape poems, how people basically view them as a trope of the genre at this point, how almost every poet I know has one—whether they use the R-word or not, whether it’s about them or a friend or just the culture we live in. I have one in my second book. For the longest time, I felt guilty about writing another one. Like I’d already used up my opportunity, like if I didn’t have something particularly new to say about the topic, then I shouldn’t bother bringing it up again. But for the last month, it’s been almost all I could write about.

     

    Read the rest of the interview here

    Spotlight Video: Listen Carefully, This Is What Rape Culture Sounds Like In America

    9.7.15 | Femvocates

    "I'm a huge fan of spoken word.  I’m also a huge fan of discussing rape culture.  Mix those two together and you get one of the best spoken word performances I have seen..."

     

    Read the rest of the article here

    Fashion and Culture in America's "Most African City"

    9.7.15 | Abiya Magazine

    Fierce, fresh, fly. These are some of the words that come to mind when describing Denisio Truitt and Mwende Katwiwa’s new blog “Noirlinians.” The self-described “AfroFashion blog” is an ode to African clothes and culture in New Orleans...

     

    Read the rest of the interview here

    Poet Breaks Down to Complicated Joys of Black Motherhood

    7.23.15 | Huffington Post

     

    The Kenyan-native performed her powerful poem at the 2015 Women Of The World Poetry Slam this past March in Albuquerque, New Mexico. FreeQuency talks about how much she wanted to be a mother, until she realized what motherhood is really like for so many black women in the U.S.,“Now I’m 23 years old and I don’t know if I have what it takes to stomach motherhood in this country,"

     

     

    Read the rest of the article here

    A Moving Tribute to the Women Raising Black Children in America

    7.14.15 | BLAVITY

    These poets talk about the nuances of Black motherhood. Their one-liners will speak truth to feelings you never knew how to express and leave you stunned, tearful and gasping for more...

     

    See the original post here

    ‘Noirlinians’ Fashion Bloggers Say New Orleans Is “The Most African U.S. City”

    7.7.15 | OkayAfrica

    The “AfroFashion” blog Noirlinians is the brainchild of two friends interested in exploring the complex relationship between culture and identity throughout the African diaspora.

     

    Read the rest of the article here

    UNAPOLOGETICALLY BLACK:

    Activism on (and off) the streets with BYP100

    3.15.15 | Antigravity Magazine

     

    Several things distinguished New Orleans' "Black Lives Matter" protests from out city's usual sign savings, including that much of the visible leadership was young Black women, part of what may be an emergent new generation of civil rights organizers with a radically different analysis and approach...

     

    See the original post here

    Women are the majority of rape victims in the United States and across the world, yet somehow their is some sort of consensus that her morals need to be questioned, rather than approach this as a sex crime. This frustrating issue was explored in a slam poetry event in Oakland, CA at the prelims of the 2o14 National Poetry Slam by artists Freequency and Desiree Dallagiacomo. Their 3 minute piece called “American Rape Culture” points to a specific area of pop culture which they say has a massive effect on how we view rape today.

     

    Read the rest of the article here

    Think We Live in a Post Racial Society? Watch this Video

    2.19.15 | Blavity

    Poem reposted on Blavity.com. Originally posted by Button Poetry

    How Rape Has Become a Staple of American Culture

    1.30.15 | Everyday Feminism

    With this spoken word piece, witness the fierce courage it takes to stand up to rape culture, call out the offending songs, and stop singing along...

     

    Read the rest of the article here

    "Recently Read:

    A New Orleans Writer's Roundup"

    1.16.15 | Press Street

    In her introduction, Katwiwa describes being moved while reading widely circulated criticisms Chief Elk had made of Eve Ensler, creator of the Vagina Monologues and its corresponding “V-Day,” while she—Katwiwa—was overseeing a production of that performance at Tulane...

     

    See the original post here 

    "8 Hit Songs With Hidden Meanings

    That Should Never Be Played Again"

    1.1.15 | Upworthy

    "Why are these kinds of songs so dangerous?

     

    If a song like "Blurred Lines" is a #1 hit, what does that say to a rape victim? It says we, as a society, are not taking rape seriously. So how is a rape victim supposed to trust a system that's part of this rape culture? They often don't...

      

    Read the rest of the article here

    "Listen Carefully, This is What Rape Culture Sounds Like in America"

    12.22.14 | HuffPost

     

    "Two women just explained the insidious nature of rape culture in under three minutes. At the 2014 National Poetry Slam in August, spoken word artists Desireé Dallagiacomo and Mwende Katwiwa (a.k.a FreeQuency) performed the poem"American Rape Culture," and explained how some of the songs we sing along to on the radio are directly contributing to rape culture..."

     

     

    Read the rest of the article here

     

    "Millennials and the Age of Tumblr Activism"

    12.19.14 | New York Times

     

    "Mwende Katwiwa, 23, creator of the FreeQuency Frequently Writes Tumblr and a community organizer offline, thinks Tumblr has helped create new opportunities for engagement. “The last national movement in the black community didn’t have access to social media like this,” Ms. Katwiwa said. “Without those retweets and reposts, we wouldn’t still be talking about Trayvon Martin...”

     

     

    Read the rest of the article here

    "Competitor Profile"

    10.16.14 | Texas Grand Slam

    "Poetry, specifically spoken word was introduced to me as a safe space for Queer youth and for Youth of Color to learn and grown in their identities and activism through art based expressions (poetry, hip hop, Djing, breakdancing, stepping) Through this program, I became a youth activist and found that my greatest tool was my tongue (it was definitely not my two feet dancing), and I began identifying as a poet and activist. This was a crucial stage of my life when I discovered that activism was really what I felt passionate about..."

     

    Read the rest of the interview here

     

    "Woman With A Vision"

    5.15.14 | The New Wave

    "That inspiration coupled with self-motivation continued to fuel her desire for volunteerism throughout her Tulane years. She has been recognized with a Jim Runsdorf Excellence in Public Service Student Award, the Bruce J. Heim Foundation Fellowship and a Public Service Fellowship with the Tulane Center for Public Service, where she has served as a student advisory board member, among other honors... 

    Read the rest of the article here

    "Unplugged"

    4.29.14 | Brassy Brown

    "BrassyBrown.com chats with Spoken Word Artist FreeQuency aka FreeQ tha Mighty for National Poetry month"

     

    Read the rest of the interview here

    "Feminist You Should Know"

    2.23.14 | BUST Magazine

    "Recently I sat down with the lovely and talented Mwende Katwiwa — a.k.a. FreeQuency, a spoken word artist, recent recipient of the Feminist You Should Know Award, and senior at Tulane University. Ms. Katwiwa is 22 and double majoring in Political Economy with International Perspectives, and African & African Diaspora studies...

     

    Read the rest of the interview here

    "Local Poets Represent LA"

    2014 | The Drum Newspaper

    "Born in Kenya, Katwiwa calls New Orleans home. She attended her first spoken word show in middle school, called Project 2050. “I had never heard poetry that was so relevant to my life and experiences,” she said. “I was so used to poetry being an ‘art for art’s sake’ based on what I had been taught and the poetry I encountered in school..."

     

    Read the rest of the interview+article here

     

    "Highlighting Women Innovators"

    2013 | Melissa Harris-Perry's Anna Cooper Project

    "With a name like Winnovators, which means women innovators, it kind of sounds like you’re reaching out to those crowds, but for us it was more having this universal connecting appeal to whatever crowd it is. It should be of interest to anyone that something is being innovated, and we’re just highlighting the fact that it’s women because we have an understanding that in our society women’s inventions, women’s ideas may not be as valued or easily and readily publicized..."

     

    Read the rest of the interview here

    "Learning to Unlearn"

    11.14.13 | Tulane Hullabaloo

    "...Among the most poignant moments of the evening involved Tulane senior and spoken word artist, Mwende Katwiwa (aka FreeQuency)...FreeQuency then shared a powerful and searing piece of slam poetry entitled “For John Mac,” the name by which she and her fellow volunteers referred to John McDonogh High, and received the loudest applause of the night..."

     

    Read the rest of the article here

    "Competitor Profile"

    10.18.13 | Texas Grand Slam

    1. How has your poetry changed since you started slamming?

     

     

    It hasn’t. I would never change my poetry just for the sake of competition. Other than time limits, nothing has changed and even with that I always just write my poetry then tailor them to the time limits after and have 2 separate pieces, 1 to slam with and 1 to just write.

     

    Read the rest of the interview here

  • Published Work

    April 30th, 2015

    Book Becoming//Black published

    February 16th, 2015

     

    FreeQuency's first collection of poems

     

    Get your copy today

    Poem 'The 7 Deadly American Sins' published in

    "Trayvon Martin, Race & American Justice:

    Writing Wrong"

     

     

    Trayvon Martin, Race, and “American Justice”: Writing Wrong is the first comprehensive text to analyze not only the killing of Trayvon Martin, but the implications of this event for the state of race in the United States. Bringing together contributions from a variety of disciplines and approaches, this text pushes readers to answer the question: “In the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, and the acquittal of his killer, how post-racial can we claim to be?” This collection of short and powerful chapters is at times angering and at times hopeful, but always thought provoking, critical, and poignant. This interdisciplinary volume is well suited for undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty in sociology, social work, law, communication, and education. This book can also be read by anyone interested in social justice and equity through the lens of race in the 21st century. 

     

     

    Click here for a preview of the book

    December 27th, 2014

    November 17th, 2014

    Interview Published on Winnovating.com

    "Loretta Ross: Winnovating Reproductive Justice"

    September 30th, 2014

    August 13, 2014

    Article Self Published FreeQthaMighty.tumblr.com:

    "On White People, Solidarity, and (not) Marching for Mike Brown

    August 2014

    Article+Interview on

    Feminist Campus:

    "On The Power of Activism and Defeating TRAP Laws in Louisiana"

     

    February 3rd, 2014

    December 23rd, 2013