ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It will go down as one of the most violent nights in Rochester history — Aug. 19, 2015.
That night, as a group was exiting the Boys & Girls Club on Genesee Street a car drove by and from that car bullets shot out and into the crowd injuring seven people.
Three of them — three young men — died.
One of those three was Jonah Barley, a 17-year-old with his sights set on the New York City fashion world.
Wednesday, Five years after the triple homicide, Adam Chodak sat down with Jonah’s mother, Anita Barley.
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Adam Chodak: 5 years is some respects is a long time, in others it’s not. How are you feeling on this anniversary?
Anita Barley: Me, I always remember my son as who he was, not what happened to him, so I don’t like to rehash that memory because that was not a beautiful sight to go back to. That would only just hurt me. We think of him all the time anyway so it’s not just this anniversary that I think of my son so to take this day and set it aside and mourn and be unhappy, he wouldn’t want that for me, so no.
AC: You talk about who he was before this, who was he?
AB: He was a bubbly outgoing young man that when I think of him now he would be 22, probably in New York City, in fashion design or something because that was Jonah, was always dressed nice and was always concerned about how everyone else dressed.
AC: Oh, so he would point out…
AB: Yeah, so he’d say, Mom, I can’t tell that person that doesn’t go together? I’d say, only if they ask you, don’t volunteer, yeah, he was that type of guy.
AC: I know it was 5 years ago, but did he talk about what he wanted to do?
AB: Definitely. He said wanted to to go to FIT and I said I wanted to go to FIT, but I liked sewing, not knowing it was different, but I told him you can do it.
AC: When you see things fashion related, it probably makes you think of him and what he could be doing…
AB: I would always let him know, clothes don’t make you, you make the clothes.
AC: He took that to heart?
AB: I wanted him to, so, eventually as time goes on your start maturing and you reflect back on the things your parents put in you so by now, yeah, I think he would have had it.
AC: That night was all about stopping the violence…
AB: That night was all about stopping the violence, yes, and it has not stopped and I can’t say I can point the finger at anyone except that I see a lot of broken, unhappy… and hatred in our society because when you love, you want to see everyone else happy. The joy that you have and exhibit, you want everyone else that on someone else. But when you’re miserable, all you see is misery in somebody. Why would someone want to take another person’s life? You did not bring them into this world. I’ve always told my kids, I’ve said you don’t have a right to take their life because God is the only one who breathes the breath of life in us and you don’t have a right to take a life … Maybe we need more where people feel trust where they can get help because I don’t feel like there’s enough help for these people and if you’re in denial, you don’t want more help so all I can do is continue to pray, pray for change because if there’s something that we can do as a people I believe it would have been done, we just have to continue to pray for change.
AC: I love what you said there – those who are happy don’t want to hurt others.
AB: Ever. Not when you’re truly happy, I don’t have to walk around with a sign that says I am happy because it’s inward and if it’s inward it’s going to show on the outside.
AC: How have you been doing?
AB: I’ve been doing good. I’ve been doing good. Because the God that I serve, I understand. I’m not bitter, I’m not in shock because I understand that things happen. I’m not in denial, asking how did this happen? It hurts me that we have a society that has a lot of hurting people and when people are hurting as an affectionate person, all I can do is pray for them because I realize you have to be very hurt or angry or bitter of some sort to go to that measure, even to stab a person, to shoot a person and then at that moment, you’re not even thinking because you’re angry at that individual, but you’re not taking into consideration all the other lives that you’re hurting. You’re not taking into consideration that the same thing that you do that will happen to somebody else’s family will happen to your family. Are you that bitter, are you that angry, that you’re not even thinking? You’re not thinking wisely, like this could never happen to me? And then a lot of times their lives end up ending. As the world calls it, it’s Karma. You take a life, you’re life is eventually going to end. Do you hate yourself that much that I’m going to kill this person, take this person out and I don’t care if my life is taken. We have freedom, life if beautiful. Life is what we make it. We have to pick and choose our battles. What are you that mad about? What are you that angry about that eventually you’re not going to get over?
AC: One of the accused shooters ended up being shot and killed and what I find remarkable is that you went to that young man’s mother?
AB: She didn’t do it. I can’t imagine she went out to tell her son to shoot up somebody. I can’t imagine that, but then I’m only this parent, I don’t know all parents and from what I know of her and we have like friends and you can tell something about a person by the friends they keep and I know this woman is not that kind of person. These kids get around other kids. They go to school around other kids and they’re pressured and they feel like they have to been seen they have to be known, no you don’t because when you love you nothing else matters, but you have to first love you because when you don’t love you you feel like you have to fit in with everybody and 99% of the time you want to fit in with the negative because negative gets all the likes and then where does it get you.
AC: You run a day care right where we’re sitting. Is this the type of message you pass along to the kids at a very young age?
AB: Oh yes. We are to be productive citizens in this society. Yes. A kind word can go a long way.
AC: At the start of the interview you talked about this isn’t what Jonah would want. Do you live with his message, his heart with you?
AB: Yes, because Jonah was a likable person and he was a kid who wanted to be liked so he was, I would always let him know not everyone is going to like you. Sometimes people will not like you for your smile Some of the things like I’m a bubbly person that would make the world love you, those are things that some people are jealous of because they’re not happy, so don’t change from who you are, just know you’re not going to please everyone, we’re just not. Be nice if we could change the world, what a better world we could be in, but that’s too much like TV but it doesn’t exist and it’s sad because I feel like it should exist, but it doesn’t.
AC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
AB: All I’m going to say is that as a woman of God, I’m going to continue to pray because prayer changes things and if we can change things I know it would be changed by now, we just have to trust in God that one day this will all be over because it is very saddening to keep seeing every day on the news a life being taken, it’s depressing so I choose to pray and it keeps my spirit up.
NOTE: The young man whose mother Anita visited was Jalen Everett. He was acquitted in 2017 and found shot to death inside a car in 2019.