Cedric Sturdevant is like a rising flame. He continuously sparks a fire in young people living in Jackson, Miss., and encourages them to use their talents and voices to accomplish a greater good in the world. In return, many people in Jackson simply call him “dad.” As a community leader, Sturdevant has worked as a mentor and educator with My Brother’s Keeper, the city’s HIV organization. At Black AIDS Institute, he’s coordinated Black Treatment Advocacy Network (BTAN), which fosters healthy relationships among black gay and bisexual men.
In 2017, the activist worked with Linda Villarosa on a story she wrote for The New York Times, “America’s Hidden HIV Epidemic,” highlighting the growing number of HIV cases in the South, particularly in Jackson. He also costarred in an interactive theater experience, As Much as I Can. Part of ViiV Healthcare’s ACCELERATE! Initiative, the show centered on real stories about living with HIV in the black community.
Sturdevant knows first-hand the effects of the fear and shame HIV stigma can instill in one’s life. He and his ex-partner were first diagnosed around the same time in 2005, but he shares, “We didn’t want anyone to know. Because of stigma and fear, we didn’t seek treatment.” Now, the 52-year-old grandfather of three is inspiring others to bury their shame and seek treatment or prevention tools.
In the next few years, the activist says, “I hope to encourage more individuals living with HIV to become leaders... become more involved with policy and advocacy work, and take their seat at the table.” He says, “I also hope to establish a place for homeless LBGT individuals regardless of their status.”
Currently, Sturdevant is a manager at The SPOT (Safe Place Over Time), which is dedicated to providing services and opportunities to young men that focus on wellness, empowerment, and leadership. Learn more at JacksonMedicalMall.org.