Rutgers student and singer/songwriter tours the world with message of empowerment
At 10 years old, journalism and media major Sophia Angelica (SCI’20) composed her first song.
“I realized that I liked to use music as inspiration,” she said, “but I didn’t know then what that meant or which direction that was going.”
Sophia Angelica identifies as Hispanic and has been involved in the Latino/Hispanic arts community in New York since she was a child—experiences that flourished under her artistic parents, but dampened by discrimination.
“My mother teaches at an acting school in New York, and I’ve seen a lot of discrimination and bullying of her Latino/Hispanic students because of their ethnicity,” she said. "It was then that I realized my music needed to send a message of empowerment.”
Finding the right venue for that message was still a missing piece of the puzzle. While still a pre-teen, Sophia Angelica sang for family members and friends gathered at a party. One of the attendees, a woman actively involved with many United Nations organizations, urged her to sing at a meeting on women’s empowerment.
After performing at a meeting on women’s empowerment, an organizer of the United Nations Youth Assembly approached her to perform at their annual event—in front of an audience of 500 people.
“I was 14 years old. Definitely exciting, but imagine the horror,” she said. “After that, I felt like I could do anything.”
That “horror” soon faded into enlightenment. At the Youth Assembly, she became connected with Youth for Human Rights International, which brought a young Sophia Angelica’s performance to the international arena—to places like Taiwan, where she sang most recently at the Asia-Pacific Youth for Human Rights Summit 2018.
The 2018 summit discussed topics related to global poverty and the world refugee and migration crisis, and celebrated the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a list of 30 human rights designed by Eleanor Roosevelt and presented at the United Nations in 1947. The declaration builds on the notion that all humans are born free and equal and focuses on rights such as access to education, expression of culture, no discrimination, and freedom of religion.
Sophia Angelica toured Taiwanese universities and nonprofits from north to south—“kind of like the distance from New Jersey to Florida”—sometimes performing two to three times a day.
“It could get tiring,” she said, “but the experience was incredible. Everyone was so welcoming and the country was beautiful. You learn so much from others and learn from different cultures, and you get to share your passion with other cultures,” she said.
During her tour, Sophia Angelica met with students her age from other cultures—and inspired them in the process.
“In a way, all of these human rights connect. I touch upon these in my performances,” Sophia Angelica said.
When not touring the world or studying, Sophia Angelica is performing locally at places like the Latino Center on Aging in New York, a nonprofit that focuses on aging Latinos in the community with Alzheimer’s—and when she’s not doing that, she’s spending time in the studio.
“My favorite song I’ve written would have to be ‘Speak Up,’” she said. “I wrote it at a time when there were a lot of school shootings in the news.”
Devastated by those events, Sophia Angelica says that the song “came out of me in a way that was true and real to me. Art has a tremendous ability to help people.”
Her advice to other students? You don’t need to be a musician to take advantage of opportunities to experience new cultures, like study abroad.
“If you haven’t had the opportunity—while you’re in college, go for it. You’re going to see your life is completely changed.”
To hear Sophia Angelica's music, visit http://sophiaangelica.com/wp_sophia/,