New York, N.Y. “Music is my Activism, Human is my Brand” are words MTV’s Made award-winning, soul-singer Maya Azucena lives by. Maya’s mission to sing started when she was only four years old and has not stopped. Most recently, Maya sang a tribute to Blues singer Bessie Smith at New York’s Tribeca Performing Arts Center and later ended the weekend headlining the women’s empowerment Red Hook Fest with her live band on a Pier in Brooklyn, Maya’s heart and home. She just released a new music video of her fan-fav The Half – And that’s just a quarter of her activities this last month. It’s always a busy season for Maya.
For Maya, music is more than a performance. She aims to inspire others to recognize their own power to make a change in their lives, and in the world at large. Maya shares a message that touches the soul and has likened music to a “Superpower.” Singing really became a clear mission for her after the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 in NYC. Feeling momentarily powerless to help those in need, Maya was overwhelmed by the impulse to sing as a way to help others and hasn’t looked back.
Since then, Ms. Azucena has performed for tens of thousands of fans around the world. In addition to her travels to countries like Tanzania, Italy, Croatia, Holland and more, Maya’s been invited by the U.S. State Department to perform as a U.S. Cultural Ambassador in Burma, China, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Honduras, El Salvador, and most recently, Russia.
Maya works with teenagers as an artist-mentor and motivational speaker. She facilitates various all-ages workshops around the world, ranging from subjects of self-expression and entrepreneurism, to musical technique and domestic violence recovery; and from self-empowerment to bullying. Maya believes Music is a powerful tool for engaging the community in conversation on outstanding issues. She recollects the director of one Garifuna community center in La Ceiba, Honduras approaching her after a concert and emotionally stating; “Your music makes me feel like I can make a difference!” Maya’s connection with others has given her calling more meaning every day.
Maya recently featured on the popular reality show MTV’s Made, mentoring a teenager to overcome her stage fright and become a confident singer. Maya was awarded a Grammy-certificate for her collaboration with Reggae star, Stephen Marley; received a Proclamation from the House of Representatives for co-producing Hope Night, a concert and benefit for domestic-violence awareness; and received the prestigious “Top 40 Under 40” from The Network Journal, for her business acumen and community work.
As much as her voice heightens, and I could sense she was smiling over the phone when talking about her desire to shine and empower, Maya is clearly serious when discussing her desire to leave a positive impact on the world.
In 2010, Maya co-founded MGDFive.com (based on the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal #5 – Maternal Health) along with Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Lisa Russell. It is a multimedia website that uses all mediums of art to help raise awareness for better maternal health. Users can create their own mash up videos, utilizing the select library of internationally gathered songs, poems, photos, paintings, and film-clips – each with a theme based in women’s empowerment, pregnancy, feminine shapes and families. This unique site allows artists and activists to bring light to maternal health issues in a creative and user-friendly manner.
This Summer, Maya has signed on as cultural ambassador for The James Jay Dudley LuceFoundation. A true advocate for those in need, and an ambassador of goodwill for her public, Maya organically represents the foundation’s purpose and believes the role is a natural progression for her. Maya says, “I love the idea of putting a ‘face’ on the Luce Foundation’s wonderful work. The foundation represents many powerful causes and it is my honor to sing for those same outreaches. We reflect each other well.”
Maya looks forward to many exciting collaborations with the J. Luce Foundation in 2012 and beyond.
The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org) is the umbrella organization under which The International University Center Haiti (Uni Haiti) and Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) are organized. If supporting young global leadership is important to you, subscribe to J. Luce Foundation updates here.