IN 2016, the August Town community in St Andrew was a far cry from its once violence-ridden past. For that year, there were no murders. This success was due, in part, to the work and mandate of the Sizzla Youth Foundation, headed by Rastafari reggae singjay Sizzla.

Despite a shooting death in January, the artiste said he is undetered in his mission. He told the media that the work to achieve success is never easy.

“It is a bit challenging, with sleepless nights and toilsome days because of the dire situations, and the fact that the area being labelled as ‘bad’ and a lot of people being hurt over the past years because of the ongoing violence. We had to regain the trust of the people and those having a feud, and that wasn’t easy. But they were all open to the cause of a safe community, and so they answered the call in love, righteousness and peace and for this I thank and commend them,” said Sizzla.

He said due to the community’s chequered history, it took a high level of patience, honesty, tolerance and reasoning among citizens and community-based organisations to accomplish the required results.

“It was also a coming together of various stakeholders and sustained efforts by the foundation, government, the private sector, to pull the whole together,” he said.

For 2017 and beyond, Sizzla is looking to sustain the efforts to achieve great results.

“My plans are to pray together and meet with the people more, in order to create a safe haven of trust and love amongst the citizens. With this, we will be better able to increase the security, educational status, and living conditions of the people and children of the community for future years. It is also important for us to teach them more of Alexander Bedward, Marcus Garvey, Prince Emmanuel and His Imperial Majesty Selassie I. We are also looking to the concerns of health and economics for the community to bring about sustainable development, and to devise plans and strategies in eliminating the crime and violence from the community,” he said.

Bedward was a spiritual leader that had a following in August Town in the 1800s.

The reggae artiste said that all this social work and community intervention does not distract from his artistic endeavours, but rather feeds into it.

“It does not get in the way of my music. The music I record has helped me in spreading the words of Jah Rastafari to the people of August Town. We have managed to harness the music to show the people the pathway, how they should be living in love and respect towards each other,” Sizzla added.