Joalby Lopez is a CYT San Diego Alum with a mission that is being accomplished. He is releasing a new album this year, Voyces United for UNHCR, and has been named the Ambassador to the United Nations Refugee Campaign. He discusses the new album, and what drives him to action…
How did you get involved with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)?
I became involved with UNHCR in a rather strange way. I was going through legal problems with a former producer trying to regain control of my master recordings and during that time I decided that it must be a sign that I should work on something else. Still music based, I began to look into for organizations I felt strongly about. I remembered back to a time in high school when I skipped school and came upon a presentation at a college dealing with refugee rights and displaced persons from war. I contacted UNHCR and presented the project to the organization and their leaders. After several years of meetings, conference calls, securing artists, performers, etc., I was given their blessing to release the first album, approved by UNHCR. During the process I was invited as a guest of honor to the launch of World Refugee Day 2006 in Washington D.C., and held my own press conference at National Press Club in Washington D.C. in 2007. I’ve been blessed to make new friends through my involvement, everyone from Ambassadors to politicians.
You were named Ambassador to the United Nations Refugee Campaign. That’s a huge deal in my book. How does an average citizen, even a teenager, get involved with United Nations?
For me getting involved was just setting out to do something I felt strongly about. There is always gonna be doubt. Doubt from others, self-doubt, people questioning you when you’re on your way to achieving. I just kept on. It took me 6 years to see the album released. But it was a learning experience. When I wasn’t able to get sponsors or funding, I worked extra hours and funded the album myself.
Pretty much all the licensing, legal work, contracts, securing artists and performance aspect was handled by me. I had the great help of a few friends in the process. My friend Janifer Cheng was always there to offer advice on the entire process and my good friend Dyana Dafova handled the majority of publicity and press for the album. Dyana has since gone on to be named the official Goodwill Ambassador to UNHCR for the Eastern Europe. It’s a lot of hard work and determination. At the 2007 press conference I was not expecting to be recognized. We had members of UNHCR and Amnesty International present. We expected just to hold the press conference and then get something to eat because my friend and I were hungry. During the event when USA for UNHCR representative Mike Coburn came up to speak he presented us with official UNHCR hats, pens, pins, thanked us and then named us (myself, Dyana Dafova, and Alex Bach) Honorary Ambassadors to the USA for UNHCR.
It comes down to having it in your heart. If you feel in your heart you are doing something good then soldier through all the obstacles. It may take a long time but determination pays off.
What have you learned from being involved in CYT?
I think what any organization I’ve been involved in the past & present, CYT included, has taught me is, to remain true to yourself. You can’t compromise who you are for the sake of an organization or political group or cause or anything for that matter. People will see through fakeness. I learned to be proud of myself, and accept my shortcomings or “faults” as blessings waiting to be used. I was in my early 20s when I started working on the project. I was pierced and tattooed. I got a lot of grief from people because I was just me. I wasn’t pretending to be anything but what I am.
I would schedule my conference calls during my lunch break at work. I met the Ambassador of Bulgaria and called him “dude” like 3 times during our meeting. It was never a sign of disrespect though. It was just me being me and I think it helped me break down the wall and be seen as a person and not a trained public speaker. Above all, know who your audience is, but don’t lose sight of who you are.
Can you tell me about the 2010 Voyces United for UNHCR and perhaps give me a preview on who will be on the album? What was your purpose for working for them?
When I first began my work on Voyces United for UNHCR, it took approximately 5 or 6 years to secure artists, licensing, distribution and such. It will still be a mix of major and indie artists. The first album was a more eclectic world music theme and this time we are going for a rock vibe. Primarily, Southern California Rock/Metal/Punk artists are uniting for the cause. By focusing on a specific market we can have individual shows to promote the album in the Southern California scene and have additional pull from the bands’ fan bases. We have about half of the artists already lined up for the album; however, we are unable to release official names until contracts have been signed. For anyone who likes the LA and SD rock scene you will be pleased that as a local artist myself, I was able to tap into some friends of mine to make sure we get incredible talent on the Rock for UNHCR album.
You can preview songs from the 2006 Voyces United for UNHCR album, at iTunes, here.