BitcoinVegan CEO and “From Bars to Bitcoin” author Justin Rhedrick is a supporter of Bitcoin, but his journey had various obstacles before the digital currency.
For Rhedrick, his journey included serving a three-year sentence in North Carolina’s prison system. While it was a tough obstacle, it was those years that served as a turning point toward self-improvement.
By May 2014, he was then released from behind bars and determined to create a new slate.
“I was dedicated to never going back to prison,” Rhedrick told AfroTech. “I’m the type of person, I’d rather die than go back, and I stand by that. There’s been plenty of opportunities for me to hop in the streets, trap, and sell drugs, but I’ve always turned them down. I’d much rather receive zero income or do hard work than go back to prison because I knew [the] freedom of choice was a value.”
A window of opportunity for Rhedrick was diving first into entrepreneurship. He started a side hustle by launching Vegan On The Go. During this time, a friend introduced him to Bitcoin and how it works.
Rhedrick then saw similarities to how stamps in prison were used to purchase products and wanted to integrate bitcoin into the vegan food delivery service.
“I came across Bitcoin through one of my friends, and he was telling me how … it’s money, it’s a technology, but it’s decentralized. And when he was telling me about decentralization, they reminded me of stamps in prison. And what that meant is that your family sends you money on the card, but if your family can’t send you any money, then you have to hustle on the yard and have stamps. So, I had a concept of like what it was to have money outside the system, but it was a lot of value in bitcoin,” Rhedrick explained.
In hindsight, Rhedrick is grateful he tapped into Bitcoin when it was still less than a decade old. The area also provided a way for him to make some income to help him stay afloat.
“When you come out of prison, you already know there’s this glass ceiling. There are all these systemic and prejudiced ways that hold Black people back, but then you have stuff that holds back Black people who have records, who are felons, and that’s a whole different type of ceiling,” Rhedrick explained. “So, when I went into bitcoin and I saw I can buy this by just downloading the app, I didn’t have to be some accredited investor, I didn’t have to already have a certain amount of income or a certain amount of money or a certain amount of wealth, I could just buy — that’s when I saw the freedom in it and the freedom of how I can move money across the world in a matter of minutes.”
The Bitcoin Academy
Rhedrick knew he was on the right side of Bitcoin, and he wanted to help others hop on board, too. This is why he started teaching at The Bitcoin Academy, an opportunity made possible through his involvement with the Black Bitcoin Billionaire.
As AfroTech previously reported, Jay-Z started the no-cost academy alongside Jack Dorsey “to provide education and empower the community with knowledge” on cryptocurrency and other financial investments.
Rhedrick had a chance to teach participants who were in their adult years down to teens.
He tells AfroTech he was most proud of introducing financial literacy to the upcoming generation and describes his time at the academy as the most important role after discovering Bitcoin.
“I wasn’t an Ivy League college grad or a 4.0 GPA guy,” Rhedrick said. “I was someone they could probably see every day, and it was really a powerful, empowering moment. They learned about money, they learned about investments, and they learned not just [about] how Bitcoin works, but how money around the world works, which made me feel good because they were able to take advantage of an opportunity at a young age to change their life.”
He continued: “We were inside the Marcy public housing. Afterward, you saw they left with newfound knowledge and they had more light in them, and that light is what let me know that no matter what I ever did, this is the best thing I’ve ever done in Bitcoin, teaching a community that could take advantage of it.”