Fighting Poverty with Passion
My name is Mwende Katwiwa and I am a VISTA by way of the Tulane AmeriCorps Fellows program. I am a recent graduate of Tulane University (Class of 2014) where I double majored in Political Economy (with a focus on International Perspectives) and African & African Diaspora Studies. During college, I was Chair of the Tulane Black Arts Festival and sat on the Executive Board of the Black Student Union (tBSU), a 2 time cast member and producer of the Tulane University Vagina Monologues, as well as a Resident Advisor and an employee of the Tulane Center for Public Service (CPS). During my time at CPS, I held two fellowships, one as a Public Service Fellow for Benjamin Banneker Elementary School and the other as the inaugural Bruce J. Heim Student Service Fellow. Off campus I am a spoken word artist under the name FreeQuency (currently the 16th ranked female spoken word artist in the nation) and I am a member of Slam New Orleans, a group of local poets who compete nationally (currently ranked 3rd overall in the nation).
Through the Tulane AmeriCorps Fellows program, I have been given the opportunity to work with Women With A Vision Inc (WWAV) for the upcoming year. WWAV is a community-based, social justice non-profit, founded in 1991 by a grassroots
collective of African-American women in response to the spread of HIV/AIDS in communities of color. Created by and for women of color, the organization addresses issues faced by women within the community and region. Originally focused on health promotion and community outreach, WWAV has expanded their focus to include policy-level initiatives that negatively affect women and communities of color within Louisiana and elsewhere. Major areas of focus include Sex Worker Rights, Drug Policy Reform, HIV Positive Women’s Advocacy, and Reproductive Justice Outreach. WWAV envisions an environment in which there is no war against women’s bodies, in which women have spaces to come together and share their stories, in which women are empowered to make decisions concerning their own bodies and lives, and in which women have the necessary support to realize their hopes, dreams, and full potential.
During my year of service, I am most looking forward to the opportunity to connect back with the community in New Orleans.
I moved down to the city immediately after high school for another AmeriCorps program called CityYear where I was living and teaching in the local community. My experience that year impacted my decision to attend the University of Chicago and I wound up going to college instead at Tulane University so I could stay in the city. Despite being in New Orleans, my time at Tulane disconnected me from many aspects of the city that had originally appealed to me. Through my work this year, I am hoping that I can transition back into being a member of the local community.