Activist & Artist Maya Azucena Raises Her Voice For Victims Of Domestic Violence

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By Maya Azucena

I am an advocate for Art as Power. As such, I truly believe that in addition to music being my business, music is my “Superpower” – A way to help the world.  I feel called to offer my voice as a service to all worthy causes that support human rights, healing, empowerment, and freedom for oppressed peoples. I have witnessed the dimension that music brings to any worthy cause. I write songs that reflect my own experiences together with my concerns, and the many stories I witness around the world.

When there is a worthy cause, music can lend humanity to the mission. Music can make an issue feel alive within the listener, regardless of their background, culture, or status. Music can convey the emotion and spirit of a cause. Then one can “feel” the issue rather than just know it intellectually. For example, I’d love for others to hear my songs and instead of feel sorry for starving people, FEEL like that starving person could be them. In this way, people are motivated from a place of personal conviction, to affect and support social change.

Through the years, I’ve been seen singing at many, many different benefits in support of human rights. Of the list, domestic violence is very close to my heart because I am a survivor of it. I had a very difficult and painful relationship with someone for 7 years that made me feel like I was in a prison sentence. Over the course of that time, and throughout the healing process after I left, I analyzed my own mistakes and learned much about how I found myself trapped inside of a relationship with someone that choked, and hit me.

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Who cut me with knives and threatened to kill my family. I came to conclusions about how I could have avoided this. I also became fiercely protective of other young women who may find themselves similarly bound by abuse. I developed a “righteous anger” that makes me want to defend women against such pain, and focus on ways society can heal this dark wound that keeps many girls and women trapped in fear and oppression. I have come to believe that “to be loved is a human right,” and that love is an action.

We must know it is okay to seek to be loved, with actions.  “We” includes men, and ought to recognize that gender-based violence is not just a woman’s issue. I believe that the majority of men do not want to see their sisters, daughters, or their mothers raped and beaten. I believe that every society is more successful when women and girls are free to contribute equally to men in their communities.

In interviews I am often asked about my influences. Musically, I am drawn to artists who dare to step over the genre guidelines, and who have passion in their playing and lyrics. I admire great technique and songwriting, and challenge myself to be worthy enough, one day, to be named in the same breath as a Prince, Stevie Wonder, or Bob Marley.

Musically, it is one thing to be technically great, and an entirely different thing to move people in spirit and soul. I strive to be a “true artist,” honest and aligned in my songwriting and vocal delivery, such that when you hear me sing you can feel that it is really “me.” There was a journey that happened between studying opera in high school, and learning technique, to being wholly honest and connected in my delivery.

This comes with practice, time on the microphone, and in knowing that what I have to say is valuable enough to be developed and heard. When speaking at schools, I suggest to students that they always decide what about a song matters to them, so that they can deliver the emotion and intention of the song – not just the notes of the melody.

In addition to all my musical influences, my big life influence is my Mom! My mother had the courage to make tough choices in pursuit of happiness and her purpose. If she found herself feeling unhappy, or if something didn’t feel right to her, she took measures to strive toward happiness. She would be willing to leave behind the thing that did not feel right, despite the temporary pain of loss.

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This is because she always knew there was something on the other side of that loss. I think this courage and example was important in giving me the courage to live boldly. I know that beyond my immediate circumstances, when I try, and try, and try again, I can eventually find what is right for me. I did not feel I was supposed to settle for unhappiness in life.  I’ve even come up with a saying that I live my life by, “I viciously guard my happiness.”

I often say, “Music is my Activism.” Rather than separating my humanitarian endeavors from my music, I have fused the two. So, Activism and Arts are not actually in two separate categories, when it comes to me. I challenge any artist to recognize the power they have when they get on a microphone. Never forget that it IS a power and you can choose to use it in a positive way. Young people need us. Actually, we all need us.

If I had to encourage anyone to pursue their dream, I would remind them: Remember that one of the most powerful things you can be is unique. There is only one you in the world that ever was or ever will be. If you develop this uniqueness, there can be no competition.

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Born & raised in Brooklyn, Maya travels the world inspiring through her songs and, more importantly, listening to the stories of women from all different walks of life and social/political conditions. She sings and speaks at events such as TEDxWomen; Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s Every Woman, Every Child at the UN and One Billion Rising international campaign to end violence against women.

Maya is also the proud artist ambassador for BeadForLife, an NGO that enables women in Uganda to overcome extreme poverty, and an executive board member for CONNECT Inc, an organization that supports families overcoming domestic violence. You can read Maya’s personal experience with domestic abuse in this moving photo essay.

Connect with Maya on her Website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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