Man holds prayer vigil to show support for Chambers
By Shavonne Potts
John Barnette is standing up for a man he does not know to fight what he considers judicial injustice.
The South Carolina activist/motivational speaker is trying to bring awareness to a Rowan County man who is on trial for a 2006 assault and robbery.
Tyrone Chambers, 27, has been in jail since September 2007 for what police say was his role in the robbery and stabbing of La Cava restaurant owner Mona Moscardini. The trial began Thursday in Rowan Superior Court.
Barnette received a phone call through a friend of Chamber’s mother, Starlene Davidson. Davidson was concerned her son could possibly be convicted of a crime she said he did not commit.
Barnette, who is the founder of True Healing Under God Ministries or THUG, travels throughout North and South Carolina as well as other states to be a “voice for the voiceless.”
Barnette is spearheading a prayer vigil just before Chamber’s trial resumes on Monday. The vigil will be at 8:59 a.m. at the steps of the Rowan County Courthouse. The trial continues at 9:30 a.m.
Police say Chambers was one of two suspects involved in the robbery. The other, Kevin Toomer, they say stabbed Moscardini in the chest, back and ribs. She was punched twice in the face. On Thursday, investigators testified Chambers took Moscardini’s purse and cell phone and ran from police. He was found a couple of blocks away from where the incident happened, but did not have the stolen items. Moscardini was not able to identify Chambers when authorities brought him back to the scene.
Barnette said he got involved with Davidson, whose son “has been sitting in the Salisbury jail for three years.”
Rowan County jail records show Chambers was admitted to the facility on Sept. 14, 2007. He was taken out on Feb. 14, 2008, to serve a sentence in Iredell County for selling a schedule II substance. Chambers was returned to the Rowan Detention Center on Oct. 20, 2008.
Through THUG Ministries, Barnette has written to hundreds of people incarcerated who have shared their stories with him. He reaches 450 inmates monthly in 13 states.
One of those inmates Barnette met and has become acquainted with over the years is the Rev. Al Sharpton.
In 2001, Sharpton was jailed during a non-violent protest over military bombings in Puerto Rico.
Since that time, Barnette says he has thrown his support behind Sharpton, who has stood up for others including the Jena Six with a 2007 march. Sharpton will not attend Monday’s vigil.
The ministry began for Barnette after his brother was killed by his cousin in 1996 during an argument. He began writing letters to his cousin in prison.
Barnette and a group of supporters will also attend the remainder of Chamber’s trial dressed in black. He said many of his supporters are those who have been victims of crimes or who have lost family to incarceration.
He hopes that through the vigil, “the state can see that he (Chambers) is innocent,” Barnette said.
“We are fighting for Starlene Davidson’s son’s life,” he said.
Barnette also hopes to invoke the spirit and energy of the civil rights movement.
Barnette and the supporters will sit quietly in court, he said.
Whether the verdict is guilty or not guilty, Barnette said the group will gather outside for a justice rally.
Barnette is a member of the NAACP and the National Action Network.
A month ago, Barnette hosted a rally in Gastonia after three teens were killed in the same neighborhood.
For more information, contact John Barnette at 704-906-2037.