Woman who was target of racial slurs wants to see change

Jakeila Phillips, of Utica, was driving on Genesee Street, Saturday, when an enraged man in a nearby car starting yelling racial slurs at her. Phillips kept her cool, pulled out a cell phone and pressed record.

Posted: Jun 30, 2020 5:49 PM
Updated: Jun 30, 2020 6:18 PM

UTICA, N.Y. -- Jakeila Phillips, of Utica, was driving on Genesee Street, Saturday, when an enraged man in a nearby car starting yelling racial slurs at her. Phillips kept her cool, pulled out a cell phone and pressed record.

"I was in so much disbelief, I just couldn't believe he was saying these things. That's another reason I calmed down, I'm like, 'maybe he doesn't mean it,' You know, I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. But then he just kept going and going," said Phillips.

Phillips says she wasn't the first woman targeted that day.

"He was provoking the car before me. He told them to roll their window down and they didn't and then he started throwing things at their car and that's when I pulled my camera out and I caught it when he threw his shake at them," said Phllips.

Phillips' cell phone video, which she posted on Facebook, reveals her asking the man his name and what he does for a living.

"Put me on Facebook! Black lives don't matter!" he shouted, and then responeded to her questions, saying his name was Barry Wardell, and that he was a cook.

On Tuesday, Phillips and community activists gathered at the corner of Genesee and Hopper Streets, in Utica, using the graphic video to call for change...and acknowledgement.

"We're asking that people recognize it in the subtle and insidious ways that it occurs every day and often, unfortunately in many communities and right here in the city of Utica," said community activist, Patrick Johnson.

Those present at the gathering said that such incidents of racism aren't uncommon in Utica; it just so happens this one was recorded.

"It happened to me but it was not a recordable moment, the person just drove off," said Tyra McKinsey.

Those gathered also praised Phillips for her handling of the situation.

"I do want to thank Jakeila for using discipline and poise and just gathering the evidence," said Jerome McKinsey.

Phillips said she wouldn't wish the situation on anyone. Asked what she'd like to see come of her experience, she said, 'change'.

"I would like to see that he has a change of heart and not be so racist or mean to people."

Phillips and the others would also like to see legal accountability, and want Wardell to be criminally charged. Utica Police are investigating.

There was also a Black Lives Matter rally held in New Hartford Tuesday, where Wardell is accused of making racist comments to another person. 

Dozens of people showed up with signs at the corner of Genesee Street and Oxford Road.

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