Gang employees at Tru Colors Brewing talk about reducing violence in Wilmington

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — “Ant” found out about Tru Colors while he was in prison.

“It came on the news, and I knew some of the guys in the news story,” he said.

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“I heard it was a good paying job and they hired gang members.”

So he reached out to some of the men he saw in the story, and applied for a job once he had served his time.

“I didn’t want to go back to the streets, so a job I could relatively easily get, I thought, yeah, I wanna be part of that because I’m not going back to prison.”

The challenges came fast for this active Blood gang member, because the Tru Colors business model forces members of rival gangs to work together from the start.

“A lot of guys in here might have a history of not getting along too well, so when you stick them in one small room, the differences start colliding,” he explained.

And that’s the overarching mission of the brewery that’s charting new ground in trying to end street violence.

Founder and CEO George Taylor Jr. says the company and his family have always been deeply committed to keeping the streets safe in Wilmington.

“We do that through the work we’ve done with start-ups…we do it through Tru Colors and we do it on the streets trying to keep them safe.”

“Ant” has become the company’s Tru Community Manager, in charge of the overall culture inside the company.

But his journey to that position wasn’t without drama, and a life-changing decision.

“I was out hanging with some friends and …wrong place at the wrong time…a drive-by occurred and I got shot five times.”

From his hospital bed, “Ant” convinced friends and family who called to keep from retaliating.

“We’ve got enough Black men in prison, got enough Black men dead…gotta start living life, creating new doors of success for people that come behind us, that follow us, you know what I’m saying?”, he said.

“We’ve had enough guys following they Big Homies to the grave, or to prison.”

The man in charge of Tru Colors’ brewing operation is also an active Blood member. “Press” says when he was growing up, he sometimes dreamed of having a job with this kind of responsibility.

“It was something I felt like I always wanted but never had the opportunity to do,” Press said.

“We don’t see too many opportunities or too many people in positions like this growing up where I come from.”

But those opportunities are available at Tru Colors, with at least 60 active gang members on staff.

Just this week, the company advertised to hire more employees, and hopes to have about 120 workers once all positions are filled.

For more on the culture inside the company, click on the video above.