Taylortown Prays for Youth, Healing
Commentary on this story on Tuesday's Headlines Podcast .
As residents gathered on "The Hill" on Main Street in Taylortown Monday night for a prayer vigil, the Rev. Carolyn Radcliff began singing.
"Let us go to the house of the Lord," went the refrain of the praise song.
The small group began to swell in numbers as more residents arrived and joined in singing. Some drove, others walked. People of all ages came -- from young mothers with babies in tow or in strollers to older residents. The crowd grew to nearly 100 people.
Residents of this small, tight-knit predominantly black community just west of Pinehurst came to pray for healing, for unity and for their young people. They gathered in the wake of the murder of 17-year-old Kevin Barrett, who was shot to death in his home on Walker Street on Saturday morning.
Among them was Barrett's mother, Lorie, who asked residents not to let her son's death be in vain.
"I am so overwhelmed to see so many of you willing to take the time to be here," said Radcliff, the minister. "I love the children. I love Taylortown. My heart goes out to this mother. That could have been my grandchild. We're going to take our town back. We're not going to let the enemy win."
Radcliff, a Taylortown resident who is pastor of Greater Green Grove A.M.E. Zion Church in Cameron, quickly organized the prayer vigil, spreading the word by mouth. She said it was important for the community to come together, to send a message to the young people.
"Thank God for you young people," she said to choruses of "amens" from the crowd. "We love you. I used to walk these streets in Taylortown, and people prayed for me. It is good to be safe. We older people, we want to let you know we care. We love Taylortown."
Radcliff asked pastors and other ministers of churches in the area to come forward, join hands and pray. As about eight stepped up, members of the crowd also joined hands, forming a large circle.
"You know our disappointment," Elder Tim Worthy said in his prayer. "Heal the brokenness. Look upon our young people. Hide them under your wing, shield them."
'Learn From His Dying'
The Rev. Rose Highland-Sharpe, who is associate pastor of Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, joined hands with Lorie Barrett, her two sons, Michael and Trevor, and two others, forming a small circle.
"Save these boys," Highland-Sharpe prayed.
She also asked God to help the community reach out to the young people, to keep them away from crime.
"Help us not to turn a deaf ear to them, to what they have to say," she prayed.
Radcliff, exclaiming "you can have fun serving God," urged young people to stay in school and get an education.
"You can be anybody you want to be," she said. "A president of the United States could be standing here in our midst. ... We love to cast the blame. Let's stop pushing the blame."
Highland-Sharpe added, "Teach one, reach one. Take time with somebody else's child. We can't do it alone. Reach out to this mother and his brothers."
Radcliff asked if anyone in the crowd wanted to pray or speak. Lorie Barrett stepped forward.
"To all of you, I lost something," she said, with pain and anguish in her soft voice. "You can't understand unless you have been there. Learn from my son's dying. I don't want another mother to feel what I am feeling. If Keith's dying saves one child, it's all right. Don't let my son's dying be in vain."
She pleaded for young people who are involved in gangs or drugs to turn from those ways before it's too late.
"Just let it go," she said. "We're all a community. We have to love each other, respect each other. ... I know I can't get him back. But if one of his friends says, 'I'm through with it,' that's OK. There's always another road, another way.
"No matter what Keith did, he didn't deserve to die like that. Just don't let my son's dying be in vain."
'Run Its Course'
Barrett's home is near the house where two reclusive, elderly sisters were stabbed to death in 1994. That murder, which shocked and saddened the community's residents, remains unsolved.
Besse Spencer McKinnon, 86, and Shula Mae Spencer, were found dead in their home at the corner of Main and Walker streets on Feb. 12, 1994. Neighbors didn't see much of the two sisters. It was three days before the bodies were discovered.
The Sheriff's Department, which investigated the crime, said it appeared to be the work of one person and that robbery was the motive. The sisters had apparently been to the bank earlier in the week. Investigators found some empty bank envelopes in front of a church near the sisters' home.
In the Barrett murder, Police Chief Tim Blakeley would not say whether investigators have determined a motive. He said Monday that no other details can be released because he does not want to jeopardize the investigation.
"We have sent quite a bit of evidence to the SBI Crime Lab to process," he said. "We still need to talk to more people and conduct more interviews. The investigation must run its course."
The shooting occurred about 9 a.m. at Barrett's home at 329 Walker St. He died from a single gunshot wound to the head, according to Blakeley. Police have not said who discovered the body or who was in the house at the time to the shooting.
'Talk Is Cheap'
Highland-Sharpe said earlier Monday that the murder did not come as a shock to some residents of the town.
"Some of our youths have been in trouble, and we've had some shootings recently," Highland-Sharpe said. "Some of us felt it was just a matter of time before someone would be killed."
Highland-Sharpe once tutored Barrett. He was one of the winners in a recent basketball tournament held in Taylortown.
"He was very polite," she said. "He just made some poor choices. He's the same age as my son. They knew each other. It is a shame this had to happen."
She said this reinforces her belief that more programs and activities are needed for young people in Taylortown.
"We have so many youths who don't have fathers, or both parents work," she said. "It is a lack of supervision and a lack of programs. I am all for more education and recreational activities for our young people. This is so very important."
Highland-Sharpe said some older residents of the community have been trying to reach out to young people and talking about wanting to do something.
"Talk is cheap," she says. "There are many who pray for our youth. We need to put it into action. We do have some unsung heroes who take the time to try to talk to our youth, to provide some guidance. That is what they really need. We need to do more for them."
Radcliff announced near the end of the prayer vigil that donations would be accepted to help the Barrett family.
On Tuesday morning, Darrel and Belinda Morrison told The Pilot that their company, Meares Carpet in Southern Pines, was donating carpet to the Barrett family.
As the vigil came to a close, Radcliff asked the young people in the crowd, "Are you all right? Say 'Yes'" After a couple of times, several could be heard responding.
"Let us come together as a community," she said. "God will take care of us."
David Sinclair can be reached at 693-2462 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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