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With Gang Members on Staff, Brewery Hits Troubled Times

The Wilmington, N.C., brewery TRU Colors makes a bold claim. Like many social-justice ventures, it strives to provide good jobs to people with criminal backgrounds, as a way to reduce violence. The private, for-profit business has attracted widespread attention, and a significant investment from America's largest beer company, Molson Coors, whose CEO predicted TRU Colors "will have an immeasurable positive impact on hundreds of lives." But TRU Colors' original twist on that mission — reserving its employment offers for people still actively involved in gangs — has proven complicated, particularly after a 2021 double-murder of two people, including a TRU worker, at the home of the founder's son, the New Yorker reports.

Local law enforcement officials say the son, George William Bagby Taylor III, who is also TRU's chief operating officer, was not directly involved in the violence, which they termed gang-related. One of the victims, Koredreese Tyson, 29, was employed by TRU and was a member of the Gangster Disciples gang, which has feuded with the region's more dominant gangs affiliated with the Bloods. TRU founder George William Bagby Taylor Jr., who is white, has said he was motivated to try to help Black gang members after a teenager's shooting in Wilmington. Taylor, who lacks a background in public service or community work, said he believes employing rival, active gang members can change the community, citing Los Angeles' Homeboy Industries as inspiration. But Homeboy founder Greg Boyle said he told Taylor that hiring active members is a bad idea. One former program manager at TRU says Taylor inevitably learns of criminal activity, “And he’s not going to jeopardize his business to help an investigation. That’s a tension that can’t be resolved.”


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