Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
Brian Moore admits he knew little about the Bham Cleanup project that grew from the rubble and shattered glass the followed the unrest in Birmingham in late May.
But a phone call from Bluff Park artist Angie Taylor prompted him to bring his message of positivity to the number of muralists who joined to replace damaged buildings with works of inspirational art.
The destruction to property came after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Businesses downtown, including Alabama and Lyric theatres, installed plywood to protect their property from further. Bham Cleanup, a grassroots organization, grew out of calls on social media to not just board up the storefronts but to turn something destructive into something beautiful.
An event on June 7 – “Paint Positivity – Turning Plywood Into Art” – sought to place a fresh light on the situation with positively themed murals.
Moore was among those who attended.
“I have a T-shirt brand and it’s an all-positive brand,” the owner of B! More Apparel Company said. “I have a T-shirt called B! Good Birmingham and (Angie Taylor) wanted to work with me on doing a mural with the B! Good Birmingham logo on it.”
Moore and Taylor have known one another for more than 25 years going back to when Taylor was manager for the hip-hop group Jive Mob and her boyfriend was the drummer.
“Brian did their flyers,” Taylor recalled. “I have been promoting Brian for 25 years. He is most positive, Christian man I have ever known. I had to spread his message to Birmingham, to bring people back downtown.”
Their mural and others that popped up as part of the project continue to achieve that goal with people walking through the area to see murals and pose with them.
“It’s been wonderful,” Taylor said. “So many people walking by saying, ‘Looks good,’ and stories of how they (tell) their children, ‘Be good,” and they would say, ‘I’ll try.’”
Off and on, the mural took three weeks to complete. Moore, a graphic designer, made his debut as a muralist on the project. He and Taylor got help from his 11-year-old son Kingston Moore and her 12-year-old daughter Abbey Taylor.
“When we got down there, I ran across one of the organizers from Birmingham Cleanup and she said that we could put (murals) all over the walls down there.”
The B! Good Birmingham mural is neatly positioned on Third Avenue North across the street from Alabama Theatre. It is also between Lyric Theatre and the George Floyd mural that adorns the Wheelhouse Salon.
Moore, who lives in Mount Olive, has long seen the potential of Birmingham and said he’s wanted to reach out to the black and white communities to pull them together. In fact, that’s how he came up with his B! Good logo, to remind people to be good to each other.
“Especially in this climate now,” he said. “A lot of emotions are high and a lot of people are angry, and rightly so. But at the same time, for the first time, I see that whites actually want to help out so we can be good together, so to speak.
“I’m 50 years old,” he continued, “and for the first time to see so many white people out on the front line and so many people wanting to know. It seems like more are listening for the first time. Of course, you do still have racism and racists but for the first time I felt like it was gonna be a little something more done on their part than just sitting on the sideline and caring. It seemed like they actually want to get involved and take action now.”
Moore grew up in Roosevelt City, which was a west side suburb before being annexed into Birmingham in 1988. His positive outlook was at least partly shaped when he and his wife were living in Pratt City. The graphic designer found God through their encounter with an F5 tornado in 1998.
As the couple dove into a bathtub and with debris crashing outside, Moore prayed, “God, take care of us.”
Despite destruction all around, including a house next door, “Our house was completely left standing,” he said. “We only lost a window and shingles. That that was the beginning of getting back to God.”
Fast forward two years and Moore started his B! Moe line of apparel.
“Part of B! Moe was to promote a positive message,” he said. “That positive message was also about people working, playing and worshiping together as one race. They say that Sunday [at 11 a.m.] is the most segregated [time] of the week. Heaven’s not gonna be that way so why should it look like that on earth?” he said.
The Paint Positivity event was led by realtor Gusty Gulas and Mary Jean Baker LaMay, volunteers who collected donated supplies to help downtown businesses and residents.
“Really, the goal is for us to become unified and really come together,” Gulas said. “We’ve got all ethnicities that we’ve been helping out. It doesn’t matter if black, white, Asian. We want to help out anybody that wants to help. We [went] around the community providing plywood at different places that had shattered glass or just wanted protection.
“We’ve really just said, ‘Hey, how can we help?’”