I’ve grown up listening to Sean Paul since my early high school days, but never did I think I would come face-to-face with him outside of my then-CD player. Any fan of Paul knows that when it comes to dancehall music, he’s definitely king. But perhaps, even more inspiring than how he has helped to grow and transform dancehall music, is how he has used his clout and name to give back to communities throughout the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paul, a husband and father to a son and daughter, has his gaze turned upon providing students with a way to continue learning, even while they are at home.
This past month, students from at least 14 schools across the country’s three counties found themselves in awe as they were presented with 100 Samsung Tab A tablets from The Sean Paul Foundation (SPF) in partnership with The Flow Foundation. The tablets come with a Flow SIM and 25 gigabytes of data pre-loaded, ready for immediate use.
Back in December, SPF and Food For the Poor (FFP) set up at the Red Hills Primary School in Jamaica, donating canned goods, local produce, toiletries and Christmas cakes to over 90 families in need.
“The parents in the area are glad for this synergy to assist those in need at this time, especially with COVID,” Principal Paul Messam said and expressed thanks to the group for considering the community.
Gillian Jamison, who has a child with bilateral retinoblastoma (cancer in both eyes), was one of many grateful parents who received a package.
In an in-depth conversation with Paul, he shared more about SPF's work. He described our country as both a "paradise" and "paradox." Paul, who grew up in a middle-class locale, wants his fans to know the importance of giving back to the community, regardless of where you come from.
Image courtesy of Sean Paul
“Before I got into the music business, DJs or rappers like myself, we make a certain amount of money, and we are always helping people out. This country is both a paradise and paradox--the best things and worst things, the fastest and slowest things, and of course, the tallest and lowest things. It’s important when you do break, that you look back on the community, you know what I mean? I’m from uptown, a place that was middle-class existence when I grew up. I wasn’t dirt poor; I never came from the ghetto, but I had friends that I would go to their house and pick them up. I would sometimes go and sit on a zinc fence--it’s galvanized zinc, because they had no walls. In there, there would be a Chester drawer and two beds, and when it rains, water would slide under the mud, which slides under the bed, the sheets they just made. I’ve seen the worst. Feeling blessed, I have to help people out, so over the years, I’ve helped many times, with different things. I finally decided to make it into a foundation, where all people could contribute as well."
Paul, who has worked miracles for many families through the Foundation, has helped families pay down their houses, purchase cars, and help the education system in addressing hurricane response.
“I remember when I was a kid, we had Hurricane Gilbert, and we weren’t able to go back to school for three months.” In September 1988, Hurricane Gilbert slammed into Jamaica, killing hundreds of people, only to continue its death and destruction in Mexico and Texas, according to The History Channel.
Fellow artist and friend, Shaggy, also has pushed hard for many children’s hospitals in Jamaica. “Every year he has been doing a concert, which I have been giving to that concert not just by performing music, but also giving money to the hospital. We are a third-world country and we need all the help we can get.”
When this year came around, Paul promised himself that he wouldn’t stand by and allow another third-world country to suffer alone, making the decision to be proactive.
Building Watersheds for Local Farmers
Paul shared that he has a strong-rooted interest in organic food. “I tried to help out small farmers last year, which we received a lot of produce from,” he explained. “We built a watershed, which is just like a roof, it catches the water when it rains and puts it into a unit, pumping it back into the field where they were. So, if there’s a drought, which last year, was supposed to be predicted to be a drought year, it would have allowed them the means to keep on producing.”
Partnering with Food For the Poor (FFP) to Distribute iPads and Tablets
In partnership with Food For the Poor (FFP), Paul and the Foundation gave out care packages. FPP has existed in Jamaica forever. "Almost all the proceeds go to the people in need," Paul explained. "They helped me with the watersheds."
"With the iPads we purchased for the children in schools, I’m seeing firsthand how homeschooling is kind of hell, it’s nuts. To try and teach my kid to listen to what the teacher is saying, it’s been crazy. To know that it’s probably going to be two years before things are back to what people call ‘normal,’ so I decided to try and help out. So, we bought 100 iPads and we’re doing more, because there’s some kids that go to school one day and wear their masks, but the next day, they’re back at home. When they’re at home, they aren’t doing schoolwork, and can’t keep up to date. There’s a phone company out here, called FLOW, which put chips in the devices to provide free cellular data for two months. I hope they don’t use it to play around too much, ha, but I want to encourage them to continue learning."
A Message to Fans
As our interview concluded, Paul left fans with a message as we are all working to survive (and thrive) through this pandemic.
“This will pass, you know humanity has been around for how many years? Some people say billions, others say thousands. We’ve survived through so many different things, and there’s one thing to remember here. This is a virus, whether it’s human made or unnaturally. We’re all catching this virus, and it’s important to remember that we have brains; the virus doesn’t. It’s just doing what it does. We can stay out of its way by masking up, keeping clean, and staying positive. Those first five months, I wasn’t positive; I was really negative and doing this all to myself in my head, so positivity is helping us beat this virus and using our brains to do so.
And to my fans, I just want to say thank you very much. It’s been an amazing whirlwind of a career. I never dreamed that I would really take it this far, so I thank everyone, new fans included, but for those who have been with me from day one. I’ve done seven albums so far, and there’s two coming this year. It’s going to be a dope album, but for all my fans to enjoy these two albums coming out, thank you very much for supporting me over these years. I hope I stay up to your standards.”