Maya Azucena is a warrior, self-crowned with a giant flower in her hair. Soulful anthems about love and self-worth are Maya’s weapons of choice. Maya’s socially conscious music (as on her latest album, 2011’s Cry Love) puts her in the prestigious company of African-American singers like Harry Belafonte and other activist performers commissioned by the U.S. State Department to spread their messages of peace and justice with a global audience.

Whether singing for girls at a rape crisis center in Tanzania, performing for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a U.N. summit or holding court a girl-empowerment event with the Roots’ Black Thought, Maya’s uplifting message always moves the crowd.

The Grammy-certificate-winning indie singer (she won in 2009 for a collaboration with reggae’s Stephen Marley) recently joined forces with respected house producer DJ Spinna to release “Dance Revolution,” the first single off One Billion Rising. That project is spearheaded by Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler, and named from the alarming statistic that “one-in-three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime” (i.e., one billion strong).

The “Dance Revolution” video, directed by Rae Maxwell, aims to increase awareness about gendered violence, to heal and unify survivors through dance. When asked why she committed to One Billion Rising, Maya says it was her own experiences that compelled her.

“I was once in an extremely abusive relationship,” Maya reveals. “I thought I was in the relationship to help him heal and grow, and I endured unthinkable abuses in the name of love. He would choke me, punch me, cut me with knives and do torturous things. It was the most painful time of my life.

“I am not afraid to be a warrior,” she continues, “[to] allow myself to be vulnerable if it helps others find the strength to leave an abusive situation. People may look at me on the surface and not imagine what darkness I've experienced. When I share, it allows others to not feel alone.”

— Sun Singleton

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