Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa is a writer, poet, youth worker and freedom fighter from Kenya, currently living in New Orleans. She works at Women with A Vision, Inc as the coordinator of the Young Women with A Vision program and is a touring artist, host and workshop facilitator. In this article, she describes her experience when she was invited to make a TED speech.

“On Sept 27th, 2017, I received an email from TEDWomen inviting me to share my poetry at their upcoming conference. The conference was themed ‘Bridges’ and featured 6 sessions — Build, Design, Connect, Suspend, Burn and Re-build — with each session featuring a 4–6-minute performance by a poet. As someone whose activism and organizing work is rooted in art and creativity, I decided to share a piece I felt most concretely illustrated my connection to the work on and off the page. After finishing the rehearsal, I went backstage only to notice the curator of the conference walk up behind me. She informed me that there had “recently been 2–3 talks on the TED platform about ‘Black Lives Matter’”, and suggested that I “cut the ‘Black Lives Matter’ portion from my talk” to make it “just be about Reproductive Justice”.

I was frustrated that poets had already been given less than the usual amount of time allotted to TED speakers, only to have it suggested that I remove the flesh of my experience to give a bare bones performance. I was frustrated that I had been invited to give a talk on an idea I deemed worth sharing, only to be told that it was not worth sharing anymore because something similar had been shared 2–3 times recently.”


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