ReEntry Stories: Building A Life And A Business As A Returned Citizen
Returned citizen Afton McClain is an entrepreneur and owner of Afton’s Beauty Pod in Dayton. She’s been out of prison for 3 years and recently voted for the first time in her life for a candidate in the 2020 presidential election.
Transcript (edited lightly for length and clarity):
Mary Evans: What was it like returning to the same city that you're from?
Afton McClain: It was extremely hard because, of course, a felony is going to follow you everywhere. So just getting out, trying to get a place to live, getting a job, everything was hard. Nobody wants to hire you, for real. Nobody wants to give you a place because they're so focused on your felony and not knowing if you changed. So it was hard.
Mary Evans: And I think the irony of it is you came out looking for employment, doing all these things, and you ultimately ended up being a recruiter and actually helping people get jobs. So how did that all come about? And what was the most rewarding thing you think in taking that job?
Afton McClain: I originally went back to one of my old jobs and a lady who was coming in and just visiting the place asked me, had I ever done anything besides warehouse work? And I told her no. She told me that I would be a great candidate to work with her mother, that she just liked my presence. She liked how I interacted with people. So when I got to the building, I found out that I would actually be the person that would be talking to people, talking to them about their felonies, placing them with jobs and actually helping them to overcome their fear of interviews. I was at that job for six months, and I decided that I actually wanted to go back to what I know, which was the warehouse business.
Mary Evans: You became a mother for the first time. How's that been?
Afton McLain: The best feeling ever. I did not think that I could have kids, like at all. I dealt with the pressures of people making fun of me because I didn't have kids. It was a blessing.
Mary Evans: Let's talk about 2020. This was my first time voting since being a returned citizen. How was it for you? Was this your first time voting?
Afton McLain: Yes, it was my first time voting. Never thought about it before. I didn't actually think that it would affect me. So this time around it affected me because coming home, there were so many changes that I didn't understand which got me into the politics, just watching the election, just watching the debates. I had to actually sit down and do my own research and figure out if me voting will be the right thing. And ultimately, I was one of the people out there telling people that they need to vote.
Mary Evans: How do you feel about your decision now?
Afton McClain: I feel good about my decision. I felt like that my vote actually counted and I'm glad I made that decision.
Mary Evans: So now you're starting your own business. Why did you decide to start your own business?
Afton Mcclain: Well, I'm first like I'm a very big supporter of the local businesses and things like that. So I had to ask myself like, I wonder if I can do this and what I get the same support. I'm big on lip gloss. I love hair. I love lashes. I'm like, well, maybe if I learn how to make my own stuff, then I will see how that goes. I did a trial run. I told my husband, like, this is something that I want to do. He asked me did I really want to quit my job. I said I'm quitting my job. I'm putting my money into this and I'm going to take it from there. I walked out of my job, I never looked back, and I'm going to open up my Beauty Pod February 14th.
Mary Evans: Ultimately, you think you made the right decision?
Afton McClain: I believe I made the right decision because of the fact that I am a felon, it stops me from working in a lot of places.
Mary Evans: So what are the future goals of Afton's Beauty Pod? Where do you see it in the next five years?
Afton McLain: The next five years I plan to have a whole other store somewhere. Right now I'm on the east side and I'm starting off small in a little industrial area, but I see myself, like branching out.
ReEntry Stories is created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.