Starred \\ FreeQuency’s poetry is a voice against social injustice
The award winning Kenyan poet is a figure who’s graced different platforms including TEDx and recently crowned the 2018 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion in Texas, US.
The image of Mwende ‘FreeQuency’ Katwiwa on stage at the British Institute of East Africa (BIEA) in Kenya as she recited her poem on gender abuse and racism remains vivid in my mind. She posed a look of vulnerability tears of pain descended her chicks with lines loaded with agony. She had promised not to cry, but the breeze of life from the paper sent her reeling into a river of tears. “I learnt to be depressed is to suffocate on your own silence” the poet echoed as she narrated the plight of a young girl blossoming into a young beautiful woman at the backdrop of teenage date rape, racism and the enormous duty of a woman to remain stoic even when all is crumbling in her life. Her smile is the most beautiful thing no matter the burden that threatens to tear her apart.
That was 2016 when she had visited her country Kenya. Based in New Orleans, FreeQuency has transformed into a world renowned poet and an advocate of women rights besides fighting racism. She has further spread her talons in reproductive justice and LGBTQ+ advocacy.
As the world marks World Poetry Day-a day dedicated to the appreciation of poetry-FreeQuency represents a group of poets who are unafraid to use their poems for social change and to condemn the ills imminent in our society.
FreeQuency, who is an immigrant in the US has written extensively on racism in the US, her book Becoming Black, which was self-published in 2015, includes poems like ‘My Father’s Lessons’ which speaks about the evils of being black and how ‘blackness’ is such a disease to be feared inevitable as it is. The book also looks at the sacrifice a woman gives for her family that is cooking, farming, raising children while her education and dreams are shuttered by societal pressure. In her poetry collection, the poem ‘The Seven Deadly American Sins’ is an ode to the much condemned 2012 killing of African American teenager Treyvon Martin in Florida USA.
On her 2017 Ted Talk presentation, FreeQuency would revisit her fight for oppression in a speech dubbed “Black Life at the Intersection of Life and Death” She boldly says in her session that she had been invited to talk about reproductive justice, the freedom for a woman to choose if and when to have children, but she could not find a way to divorce the topic that she holds dear- Black lives.
Her rich poetry saw her recently crowned as the 2018 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion in Dallas Texas.
The Kenyan born poet is founding member of the New Orleans chapter of the Black Youth Project 100, a founding committee member of the New Orleans Youth Open Mic (NOYOM) and festival coordinator for the New Orleans Youth Poetry Festival.
FreeQuency has dedicated her poetry to the fight for social justice and she is an excellent soul at it.
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