Coming of age as an African American man in this country can present many challenges. If you are forced to do so without the guidance of a male figure in your life, things can get even more convoluted.
Our community is flooded with families who have been, directly or indirectly, torn apart by the criminal justice system.
However, that story doesn’t end the same way for everybody, for our next Penitentiary Warfare Series interview we spoke with Danville, KY business owner & entrepreneur Jyrone Parker who’s father spent 22 years in prison but still managed to be an intricate part of his life and childhood.
During our interview we talked about business ownership, the importance of residual income, growing your own food and much more…….
Ok Jyrone, Talk to us about the Dynamics of your household growing up??
So my father was incarcerated when I was 2 years old. I grew up with my mom and a bunch of men coming in and out of my life, some of them were really influential and some of them were really detrimental. So, because of that, there was a lot of mental/emotional instability in terms of masculine influence.
Growing up as a young black male there’s an urge to want to identify with the older black male in your life. However, it became a pattern, every time I would get used to someone they would leave the picture. So, there’s a lot of emotional instability that came with that and for a while, I wasn’t dealing with it in a healthy way.
So, overall how do you think being raised in that type of environment effected you?
I remember at a very early age promising myself that I would never do that to my children. I also promised myself at an early age whenever I get married I’m only going to get married once. And I have stuck to that. I’ve been married going on 6 years now and we have two children.
Of course, we go through trials and tribulations like every married couple but I have a code. I’m not going to do to my children what was done to me. I know that I’m an outlier. I know the majority of the people who were in a situation like mine end up repeating the cycle so I owe it to not only my children but to myself to not repeat that cycle.
You spoke briefly about your father going to jail when you were two years old. Talk to us about your relationship with him throughout their process?
So I grew up visiting my dad quite often, anywhere from 1 to 4 times a month. We also spoke multiple times a week, he was very active in my life. He effectively raised me from prison.
For example, when I was in school, up until when he was released, he would find out the ISBN numbers of my textbooks in special-order them so he could help me with my homework over the phone. He would even help me prepare for my test. During our 20-minute phone calls more times than not he was reading to me.
He got me a subscription to Popular Science and Wired Magazine with is commissary money which helped foster my passion for engineering. So growing up in that environment and being around other children who had their fathers imprisoned as well created this weird dynamic. We were actually growing up together.
I’m seeing these people every week as well as keeping up with their kids in the outside world. I want to reiterate, I understand that I am an outlier. Alot of the kids I made relationships with are in jail now. There is even a portion of them that are dead as well. If they’re not dead or in jail they’re messed up. Their fathers didn’t do nearly as much as what my father did and I can actually remember going to visit my father and hearing some of their fathers glorify the crime life to there kids.
So, I’m very blessed. With everything that we been through together, we don’t hate each other. In fact, our relationship is stronger than a lot of people I know who parents never went to prison, who were in the same house with them. But they’re not talking to their kids and not spending time with them. I missed out on the physicality, I do miss that. It does bother me that I miss 22 years of that but the spiritual, emotional, and psychological relationship I have with my father I wouldn’t trade for the world.
So, how is your relationship with him today?
He is currently working full time, he came out and he’s killing the game. He’s happily married and he lives just 30 minutes down the street from me. He gets to see my kids on a consistent basis.
The funny thing is, my kids are currently the same age me and my sister were when my father went to prison. So, he came out and he’s vicariously living through them.
Now you mention your kids. How many children do you have?
I have two. I have a son and a daughter. My son is 4 years old and my daughter is 2 years old.
What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from your father as well as the other men in your life that you’re using to raise your children?
Okay, I will tell you about the good things that I learned as well as the bad things I learned not to do. So, my brother’s father who is from the Bay Area was the one that actually got me into computers. His name is Brandon and he married my mom. They were married for a few years and of course, they hade my brother.
Brandon and my father actually speak, they have a relationship. I tell everybody that I have two fathers. I have my biological dad and I have big Brandon because even after he and my mom got divorced, he still took care of me. I would go to California and spend the summer with him. He would be there for me emotionally as well as physically when my father couldn’t do so. One thing I learned from Brandon was empathy and patience.
On the flip side, a lot of the detrimental relationships I learned from example of what not to do. Some of these men were abusive to both me and my mom and not just physically. A lot of these men projected their insecurities on to us.
Even as a child, I recognize that you have to learn to accept responsibility as a man. I don’t make excuses for myself… never. If I mess up, I mess up. I feel like you can’t call yourself a man if you only own up to your successes and not your failures. I would see these men accept credit for the things they didn’t do but always have an excuse when they messed up.
Even at a young age, I noticed that and I thought to myself I’m not going to be like that. The consequences of accepting responsibility is power and I want to be a powerful man. I want my children to respect me I want my son to want to emulate me. There are so many boys out there who honestly don’t want to emulate their fathers because their fathers aren’t doing what they need to do. I don’t want to be associated with that crowd.
In your opinion, how important is the father to the overall structure of the family?
No Nation rises above that of its men…..none, not in antiquity. Not to say that the women are unimportant, they are important, but it’s the ying and the yang. However, when you attack the man you’re attacking the head you’re attacking the central processing unit of the family, the community.
On the macro level is the community but on the micro level, it’s the family. Even if the father and mother don’t want to stay together. Honestly, I’m a very cynical person when it comes to that. I really don’t see any reason why if you bring a child into the world you’re not going to stay with that person.
Some people disagree with my hardline on that but it is what it is. In my opinion, you can’t say you love your children and your family but then you skip out on them. Some men say: “Oh it’s the baby mama or I can’t deal with the stress” or “I didn’t sign up for this” Once you decide to penetrate that woman and create a life, it isn’t an option for you not to handle your business. Like I said no Nation rises above that of their men.
Ok, last question. Talk to us about J Computer Solutions and your reason for starting your business?
So I started J Computer Solutions in high school but I officially LLC’d it three years ago, that’s actually another thing that my father pushed me to do. Before I started the company I was doing websites and apps for people. I even did work for churches and people in my neighborhood. It got to the point where I was having a lot of clientele.
My father always stressed to me, as a man, you need to have multiple streams of income and the importance of starting a business that you can pass down to your family. At this point, J Computer Solutions is my most successful company but I’ve done several startups. I’m an app developer.
I brainstorm, think of an idea, then spend 50 bucks to make it a company. I’m not afraid of failure. I don’t even like to use the word failure, I either win or I learn. Right now, I work from home full-time because I want my children to grow up and see their father working. A lot of kids see their father’s leave for work but they don’t see their father working, I want my kids to see it so they will have those values.
When they get of age, during the summer, they’re starting businesses and they’re not going to have a choice. I’m going to teach them to be entrepreneurial. I’m heavy into investing and I’m starting to get into real estate. I put about three apps a year out just to keep my skills sharp. I run my blog as well as my YouTube channel and I am doing very well for myself.
Even if I was only making $20,000 or $30,000 a year I would still be very happy because I’m doing what I want to do. Honestly, I feel it would be disingenuous to tell my children to go chase their dreams if I have an achieved mine. Around the 1930s, one out of every five black families were business owners now less than 10% of black people own businesses.
Back then, people in the community farmed as well. I think one out of every three households farmed which is something I do also. I try to be very active in the community. I’m from Louisville Kentucky but I presently reside in Danville, KY. The vast majority of the black population in Louisville lives in West Louisville. I’m trying to talk to people and tell them: You know you can grow food in your house right?
I was showing them how much money they would save by growing there food. I would say out of a hundred people maybe two or three people would take my advice and start growing their own food. The ones that took my advice would always come back to me with success stories about how much money they saved once they started growing there own food. The money they saved allowed them to move to a better environment or use the extra money to start a business, etc, etc results varied.
That can be used as great residual income. Right now, maybe 50% of my income residual and it is based on the apps and different things that I do. So, I’m really big on residual income it allows me to spend more time with my family. By the time I pass away I would like to have helped our community be more self-sufficient I believe in the “teaching a man how to fish” philosophy.