Catapult Alumni The Freya Project: Where Women Have a Shared Voice
The Freya Project is a nonprofit organization founded in 2016 by two Catapult classes alumni, Natalka Burian and Nonie Bryzski.
At the Freya Project‘s fundraising events throughout New York, female and female-identifying writers are invited to read original work that speak directly to the nuanced experiences of women in the United States today. The proceeds from these events go directly to small non-profit organizations nationwide that support a wide variety of causes and marginalized communities, from gun control advocacy to the well-being of immigrant and refugee women. Given the vitality of The Freya Project’s mission and its tie to the Catapult community, I wanted to hear more from Natalka and Nonie about the origins of the project, and how they view its distinct place in the realm of nonprofit work.
Molly Young: I understand that the Freya Project began in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Can you say more about how and why the election served as a call to action for you both?
Natalka Burian & Nonie Brzyski: During the months before the election we talked and texted a lot about everything that was going on. So many women we were horrified by the media’s coverage of Hillary Clinton and the way the president spoke about women, and it seemed not to matter. As we now know this only continued to get worse. We wanted to change the way we as a society speak about and treat women. We wanted to create a space where women had a shared voice.
How do you choose essay readers for each reading? Are there particular topics or genres you try to highlight?
I think it’s more accurate to say that we choose readers rather than choosing essays. When we invite someone to read, it’s because we’re excited for that person to share their point of view and experience with our audience. Often our readers are authors and activists that are doing work in their communities for women’s rights.
What other organizations are doing similar work to the Freya Project? How have they served as inspirations or starting points, and what makes the Freya Project unique?
There are so many wonderful reading series and there are so many great nonprofits, but we believe the Freya Project is unique in that it brings activism and storytelling together in a fresh way. We are also constantly nurturing our community–not just our audience and supporters, but our community of readers as well. It is of the utmost importance to us to bring together people who might not otherwise meet or be aware of one another.
We wanted to name our organization after a strong fearless woman and we decided to go with a goddess. Freya is the Norse goddess associated with love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold, war, and death. We joked that she was the goddess of everything. This made sense to us as so many women put pressure on themselves to do it all.
Where do you see the future of the Freya Project?
We want to host readings across the United States and raise as much money as possible for as many organizations as we can. In 2019 we plan to host events in Portland, San Francisco, D.C., L.A., New York, and hopefully Houston.
The Freya Project provides a wide variety of grants and stipend money to women all over the country. How do you decide where to allot money for these modes of financial support?
In the beginning we listened to the president’s campaign promises and chose areas he said his administration would target: women’s health, reproductive rights, immigrant and refugee support, environmental advocacy, gun control, LGBTQIA advocacy and support, to name a few. We look for organizations that work in specific areas in communities where they are the only or one of a few nonprofits in their field.
For those who are unable to attend Freya Project events, what are some basic ways people can contribute to the Freya Project’s main cause, to amplify and support women and female-identifying folk?
People can check out all of the wonderful organizations we’ve supported in the past, and even read some of our readers’ published work. We’re also constantly working to bring the Freya Project all over the country–so, if there’s a need for this kind of event in your community, get in touch!
If you had the power to invite any writers you wanted to read at a Freya Project event, who would be on that dream roster?
Jia Tolentino, Zadie Smith, Anne Helen Peterson, Kamalia Shamsie, Samantha Irby, Ijeoma Olou, Ali Smith, Michelle Obama …there are so many amazing women working right now that we will never run out of women to dream about inviting.