JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – “18 years, 6 months and like 14 days” Antonio Bright, co-owner of X’lusive Barber and Braiding Studio said.
That’s how long Antonio Bright spent in prison before his two life sentences were overturned.
In 2001, Bright was sentenced and convicted for an armed robbery that he did not commit.
“(The judge) says ‘I’m sentencing you to a life sentence.’ Your heart, stomach, your chest, everything just drops. And the only thing you’re holding onto is just your physical body to try to be able to move you forward to say ‘You’re strong enough to still stand,’” said Bright. “I didn’t know what to think, what it was that could take place. But I knew I just couldn’t give up.”
He didn’t give up and fought for nearly two decades for a second chance, one that was eventually granted through a post-conviction motion.
With Bright’s newfound freedom, he and his wife opened X’lusive Barber and Braiding Studio on Jacksonville’s Northside in May.
However, the trade is not something Bright is new to. He’s been cutting hair for 33 years.
“I cut hair from the time I’ve been 12 years old, through prison and came home but never looked at it to be as lucrative as it is now,” said Bright.
While Bright and his wife are enjoying their business’ success, Bright isn’t stopping there. He’s been publicly sharing his story, with the hope it will encourage others who are in impossibly difficult circumstances, to never give up.
“I had the two life sentences. It was over with. Right now, I want to be a beacon to allow other individuals that may be receiving the same treatment-- to find someone who thinks that their hopes, dreams, and future are all over with-- I hope I can help them realize that you can come out of that situation and be successful,” Bright said.
Bright and his wife recently welcomed a new baby and they’re excited for the first time in 18 years to see what the future holds.
Bright’s ultimate message? Your past doesn’t have to define your future, a reminder he hopes to serve one cut at a time.
For more information on the studio, click here.