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KCK man opens restaurant, reclaims passion after serving 9 years in prison

'I have the right recipe to help our community'
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Posted at 5:57 PM, Jun 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-04 19:36:53-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City, Kansas, native opened up his own restaurant after dedicating decades of his life to the hospitality industry.

Jah Kenya Seals finally got the keys to open Opal N Blue’s on May 9, his 45th birthday.

His southern-style menu is inspired by his late grandmother, Opal, who instilled his passion for cooking. The “spirit” of the kitchen was inspired by his late grandfather, Clarence “Blue” Scroggins, who modeled the kind of man he wants to become.

“He’s the man who taught me that you can be firm and masculine, but give your love away,” Seals said.

Seals says the road to his success was anything but easy. He was sentenced to prison for a crime he says he did not commit, which set him down a long path of pain and healing.

After serving nine years, he credits his optimism to leading with love in the midst of injustice.

That time in my life was a time to make sure I look in mirror and hold myself accountable for everything and anything that I knew I could be better at. Cause I knew I was gonna come back home someday,” Seals said. “My spirit has to be right as I’m doing all this beautiful stuff. It's not beautiful if I’m ugly on the inside, and you’re gonna be able to tell when you taste it.”

He says he has started the process of requesting clemency for his criminal records since he believes that is the only way he can clear his name, find justice and move forward.

“I’m an innocent man that did nine years,” Seals said. “About 2% truth and 98% lies turned into changing my whole world upside down.”

When Seals returned to civilian life, he went back into the restaurant business and juggled two to three jobs. While he was building up his resume, he knew he did not want to work for others forever.

“I wanted to be where we don’t have to call it the front of the house or the back of the house, let’s call it the heart of the house and the spirit of the house," Seals said.

During that time, he was also connected to Second Chance KC, a bridge program that helps formerly incarcerated people rebuild their lives. He met a woman named Brittany Peterson who believes in him.

“She said hold on, hold on Jah, what do you wanna do? And I said, 'I wanna cook. I want my own restaurant' … It’s amazing that she has vision like she did,” Seals said. “Second Chance … literally, they named it perfect. Here’s a second chance for you. This is what we have for you, let’s do something with it together.”

He graduated from the program after about two years which helped him get back on his feet and find housing, jobs and basic necessities.

While Seals endured multiple trials, the strong teaching of his grandparents and the help of Second Chance KC allowed him to turn his pain into love for his community that invested in him years ago.

“To be able to serve others and do it with love, kindness and joy is giving your gift away,” Seals said. “I have the right recipe to help our community.”

Opal N Blue's is located at 3202 E. 27th St. in Kansas City, Missouri.