Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Onstage, Sheldon Shepherd is the smooth-talking main voice in the poetry group No-Maddz, which has made a strong statement with The Trod Live, recorded in March at Finnigan's Winery, Cranbourne Avenue, St Andrew.
On screen, he is the tough yet sensitive Ricky in the film Better Mus' Come, a politically charged drama set in the turbulent 1970s Jamaica.
But in late November when he visited the young ladies of Eve for Life, which supports women and children living with HIV, and heard their experiences, Shepherd said, "some of them stories ... eye full a water". He said he was invited to the meeting by Eve for Life director, Joy Crawford. "She said we need a patron and I said 'why not use me'," Shepherd said. "You know man have to stand up for woman."
Shepherd said when he went into the room "all me a look around, a some beautiful girls, nothing no wrong with them." "The majority is the less fortunate, who man tell some foolishness, then give them the virus. What to do now? Cast them aside?" Shepherd asked.
He met a young lady who got a tattoo and HIV to go with it. And there are those cases, Shepherd said, where the infection was deliberate. "Some of the man them know them status and still have sex with the ladies," Shepherd said. "Them vindictive kind of thing we a try highlight, so we can put them on the front burner, so people can be more aware."
One man in particular knew he was HIV positive, as did many persons, but not the girl who he got pregnant. So far, the baby has not shown signs of infection. However, there is another situation where a woman recently found out that her teenage children are HIV positive.
Shepherd said he wants to spread the message that persons with HIV/AIDS are "sick, but you can manage your sickness and it is not a death sentence."
He is now the official patron of Eve for Life and said "this is my personal charity, Nomadic Movements charity, No-Maddz charity". Part of that commitment is contributing part proceeds from events staged by No-Maddz to the organisation. The first will be held on Boxing Bay at the Bob Marley Museum, 56 Hope Road, St Andrew, and is dubbed 'The Trod Live! Holiday Special'. Starting at 8 p.m. after the gates open an hour earlier, it features No-Maddz and bands Roots Underground and Raging Fire, with Gabre Selassie playing recorded music.
"Whenever we do events, we want to cut a cheque so they can put to their pool," he said.
There is a "personal goal" that he has set. "Within this year (2011), I would like to give them a cool million. Even if that is one event. I would like to be able to cut a cheque or give them an idea. The girls are willing to work, but not up front."
"A million dollars, it triggers something. When you get that, you pass a threshold and it just easier for things to start flow," he said.
"Can you imagine all the others out there, scared, not even know about Eve for Life so they can find refuge there, can link up and find strength? When this is highlighted and Eve for Life have strength - you know money give you strength inna Babylon - they can reach out," Shepherd said.
He is also reaching out to "my musical friends", including Raging Fire, to see what more can be done for Eve for Life. "It is really going to be an army of us tackling this charity and finding ways and means to assist in reaching their goals and give them hope," Shepherd said. He raised the possibility of assisting the HIV-positive young women's children with toys, as part of the process of raising hope.
Still, he pointed out that the women are far from despondent. "Them have a thing where them positive, them jus' a live," Shepherd said.