• Bio

    SHORT BIO:

     

    Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa is a 25-year-old Black, Kenyan, Immigrant, Queer, Womyn poet in New Orleans, LA. Ranked 3rd at the 2015 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, 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. She has been invited to to speak/perform at various conferences including Melissa Harris-Perry's Gender, Sexuality and Hip Hop Conference, TEDxTU, and the Courageous Conversations on Race National Summit. 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 at the 2015 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 board member for Patois: The New Orleans' International Human Rights Film Festival, a blogger with the AfroFashion and Culture Blog Noirlinians and a member of Wildseeds: The New Orleans Octavia Butler Emergent Strategy Collective.

     

     

    In 2014, FreeQuency graduated from Tulane University with a dual degree in Political Economy (with International Perspectives) and Africa & African Diaspora Studies, receiving top honors in both departments and numerous institution wide awards for service, leadership and scholarship. In college, she was also named the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campus Leadership Program inaugural Feminist You Should Know (2013) and was responsible for resurrecting and hosting Tulane's largest and most successful Black Arts Festival to date at the time (2014). 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.

     

  • About Becoming//Black

    BECOMING//BLACK WILL BECOME AVAILABLE AGAIN IN SEPTEMBER 2016

     

    Becoming//Black is a collection of poems that follows Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa's exploration of Blackness/identifying as Black after emigrating from Kenya to her diasporic home in the United States where Blackness is a distinguishing feature. The collection features well known poems from FreeQuency exploring the topic of Blackness in the states, as well as intimate, never before heard work that explores the author's personal exploration of Black identity as an immigrant.

     

    BECOMING//BLACK WILL BECOME AVAILABLE AGAIN IN SEPTEMBER 2016

  • Upcoming Events, Performances, Slams, Workshops & Features

    FreeQuency and Slam New Orleans (#TeamSNO) are currently competing at the National Poetry Slam until August 7th, 2016.

    Follow along here

  • Social Media

    Facebook: FreeQuency aka FreeQ tha Mighty

    Twitter: @FreeQthaMighty

    Instagram: @MwenderInSuspenders

  • 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 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam where FreeQuency took 3rd place overall

    "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

    The Joys of Motherhood

     

    Filmed by the good folks at All Def Poetry at Da Poetry Lounge

    Black Girls Rock

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

    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!

    Embracing Weakness

    Embracing Weakness (A Poem for Strong Black Women)

     

    Filmed by the good people at Poetry Slam Inc. at the 2015 Women of the World Poetry Slam where FreeQuency took 10th 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

    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.”

  • FreeQuency in the News

    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

    Poem published in

    Sweet Lemon Magazine

    "The I'm Sorry Poem"

    Fall 2013

    Article published on

    My Existence is Political

    "On Being Black and Woman on Women's Equality Day"

    August 26th, 2015