WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Tru Colors Brewing Company is on a mission to inspire change in the community in whatever way necessary.
“We are a brewery that hires active gang members from rival gangs and unites them together to help stop violence across the city,” said Chandler Hatch.
The company developed in 2017, with plans to employ active gang members from rival groups as a way to bring them together to unite against gun violence while offering jobs and the chance for a different life.
The group has held community events in the years since and as social justice continues to make headlines nationwide, this year they’re taking things virtual amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tru Colors is launching “Tru Conversations” as a way to create dialogue among people of different backgrounds.
“A lot of people are sitting in a bubble and you would be amazed the things you can find out when you talk to people," said Chaz Springer who now works in marketing for Tru Colors. "We sit behind our tvs and our keyboards and watch the news and are swayed left and right about perceptions of people who don’t look like us and when you sit down and really talk to them and they’re truthful about how they really feel and you start to get into the nitty gritty of how you feel and build that empathy, and say ‘you know, you’re right.’ I’m starting to understand and I’ve never been in the atmosphere for me to really do that.”
Tru Colors first started after the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Shane Simpson in 2016. One of the teens accused in his killing was Deandre Nixon, who was also 16 at the time. The case was eventually dismissed.
On Friday, September 11, 2020, Nixon turned himself in in connection to the July 2020 drive-by shooting of a 15-year-old.
“It’s very difficult watching things like that happen and it lets you realize how critical our job is with this company," Springer said. "Our partnership with the company to use our influence and power in a way to kind of reconstruct that mentality.”
The brewery remains under construction along Greenfield Street in Wilmington.
Tru Colors intends to move into the office space this fall, and expects brewing equipment in place by Christmas with a grand opening next spring.
Springer says this job gives him purpose. He’s previously served time in prison, lost a brother to gun violence earlier this year and has another brother serving 20+ years in prison.
“This is a big part of why I do what I do,” he said. “It takes a lot of you to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Now he’s working for the generations to come. He says they’ve overcome many challenges to get to this point, and he expects to continue facing them as they address systemic issues in our community.
“It’s not going to happen in a day," Springer said. "We know that. It’s something that we’re probably going to die doing and that’s just the truth about it. It’s for the generations coming.”
But he says it’s work worth doing no matter how long it takes, so other kids who may feel they have nothing better to live for and thereby nothing to lose can look to Tru Colors for examples of living life a different way with hope for a better future for all.