New Stories

An Interview with Poet “FreeQuency”

by Kara Goughnour

Poet Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa will be performing at the chapel on Wednesday, Jan 31 in coordination with the Pitt-Greensburg Written/Spoken Series.

FreeQuency is a Kenyan, immigrant, a Queer Womyn speaker and performer, a 2017 TEDwomen speaker, and an internationally touring author, host, youth worker, social-justice lecturer, teaching artist, and workshop leader.

Question: How did you come to decide that you wanted to be a writer?

Answer: I always wrote creative stories when I was young. I was fascinated with stories and as an immigrant became interested in language as I learned to speak and write in English. Growing up, I hated poetry. I was introduced to “conventional” poetry and it bored me to tears. But when I was in middle school my mom took me to a see a performance by a multidisciplinary youth group called Project 2050 and I was hooked. I saw and heard stories from people who looked like me. I wanted to listen and it encouraged me to not just write poetry, but to begin to perform it.

Q: How do you think that being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community affects your writing?

A: As a queer person who is exploring my gender identity, I think writing helps me sort through the questions I have for myself. It helps me because I can look back and see how I am transitioning and moving towards a self I know I am inside. Because I am still sorting so much out, that writing tends to be more personal, but people have been asking for me to make it more public, so that’s something I am working on this year.

Q: In 2018, do you feel more motivated to write about these topics?

A: I don’t necessarily feel more motivated to write on it this year. I think this thing happened where the election of Trump has mobilized people – many of them white and young – who had previously been in their own worlds and not plugged into the struggle or movement work. But for those of us who have been in it, whether through experience or intentionally making this our work, I’m not so sure how much this time has changed things except making the truths we used to previously be denied more apparent to everyone else.

Q: Do you have any work that you’re most proud of?

A:  I think all of my work is important to me in different ways, though some are more significant at different times. I tend to write based on what I need to get out of my body and spirit. The work I do on mental health, though, I think is increasingly important as I realize how few people are having those conversations, especially in communities of color and immigrant communities.

The event is free and open to the public. A catered reception, question-and-answer session, and a book signing will follow the readings. Copies of FreeQuency’s most recent publication, Becoming Black, will be on sale for $10.00.

Written/Spoken is a reading series that brings nationally-known poets and writers to the Pitt-Greensburg campus. Undergraduate student writers and Pitt-Greensburg alumni participate in readings and give performances of their own work.

The series is sponsored by the Pitt-Greensburg Creative and Professional Writing Program and the Office of Academic Affairs.

For more information, contact Professor Lori Jakiela at loj@pitt.edu.

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