More than music: Why Big Sean is vital to the city of Detroit

Rapper helps children, community in hometown

Big Sean performs at Michigan Central Station on June 19, 2018. (Amber Ainsworth/WDIV)
Big Sean performs at Michigan Central Station on June 19, 2018. (Amber Ainsworth/WDIV)

DETROIT – Big Sean hails from the west side of Detroit, and he often references the city in his songs.

But the Grammy-nominated rapper, born Sean Anderson, does more than just incorporate his hometown into his music -- he makes the city and its people a priority. 

The first Detroit's On Now weekend is happening through Monday. Sean and his organization, the Sean Anderson Foundation (SAF), are hosting events to benefit the city. A fundraiser for the Motown Museum was held Thursday, as well as a program that allowed young creatives to design and pitch their own footwear to fashion experts.

Sean is also hosting a block party Saturday at the Ford Resource & Engagement Center and the 2018 Lead Innovate Thrive Elevate Festival Sunday at Detroit's West Riverfront Park. Click here for more details about the events.

“I always love giving back to the city that gave me so much. I just want to start the summer off right and invite everybody in Detroit and the surrounding areas to come out and enjoy the festivities.” Sean said.

The weekend is only a bit of how he reaches out to the city that raised him.

Since 2012, the Sean Anderson Foundation, formed by Sean and his mother Myra Anderson, has given back immensely to members of the community where the entertainer grew up.

Sean's impacts have helped youth across the nation, but his efforts are largely concentrated in Detroit and Michigan.

Educational impact

Sean and his foundation have continually contributed to programs that help students in Detroit, including Wayne State's Helping Individuals Go Higher (HIGH) Program. 

Related: Dan Gilbert, Big Sean inspire students in Detroit

The program helps provide housing support, textbooks, school supplies, clothing, transportation, child care assistance and other resources to students in need.

In 2016, the SAF created a $25,000 endowment for the program and provided another $15,000 to HIGH in 2017.

Sean and his mother created Mogul Prep, a learning platform that creates an immersive experience for middle and high school students. The initiative uses careers in the entertainment industry as a gateway for exploration of other career pathways.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan presents Big Sean with the keys to the city as he kicks off his Mogul Prep Experiential tour on April 1, 2017. (WDIV)

Sean has provided money to Detroit schools and unveiled a recording studio at his alma mater, Cass Tech.

Additionally, the foundation has a partnership with Project Knapsack, which provides backpacks with school supplies to students.

Bettering the lives of youth

Besides assisting students in the city, Sean has made numerous contributions that benefit children outside the classroom.

The foundation supports the Detroit Police Athletic League, which provides athletic, academic and leadership development programs to youth, with monetary donations. The rapper has also participated in several Coats for Kids drives, visited Children's Hospital with a toy donation and treated a group of children from the Southeastern Michigan Boys and Girls Club to a Detroit Pistons game. 

Reaching out to the community

Sean's work stretches beyond helping just youth. 

The foundation frequently sponsors the Annual Thanksgiving All Star Giveback. Last year, the giveaway distributed more than 5,000 meals to families. The foundation has also served as a sponsor for a holiday party for the homeless, hosted by the South Oakland Shelter.

In 2016, SAF partnered with several organizations in Flint and helped raise money for children affected by the Flint water crisis.

The rapper has also been working with Emagine to open a move theater in Downtown Detroit.

Detroit: Comeback City

Sean served as an executive producer for "Detroit: Comeback City." The History Channel documentary, which premieres July 1, focuses on the rise, fall and rebuild of Detroit, with a focus on Michigan Central Station.

The former train depot has stood vacant, looming over the city's Corktown neighborhood for 30 years. Sean performed and spoke June 19 at an event where the station's new owner, Ford Motor Company, announced its plans for the building. View renderings here.

Watch Sean's performance below.