Sean "Birdman" Gould is a lean, mean, rockin' machine.
He has played in at least five Miami bands at all times for the past 20 years. And right now, he's rollin' with Nil Lara, Mixed Culture, Birdman's Clambake, Night Train, and Blowfly. Music has even put him at the center of international controversy.
In the year 2000, he met Eddie Vedder at Mac's Club Deuce on South Beach, invited him back to his Little Haiti studio, and recorded 3 CDs worth of cover songs now infamously known as "The Birdman Sessions." The music leaked, and the Pearl Jam lawyers caused a hell storm.
But the biggest project of his life is the one he started this year. He calls it #BirdmansTrashInitiative.
"I'm picking up trash everyday out of civic duty and social obligation," he says.
And sure enough, every day from 5 to 6 p.m., he's on the main streets of North Miami, near NE 127th Street and 16th Avenue collecting litter in full view of traffic "so that people think twice about the trash that they're throwing out of their car window on the way home from school, the store, or the gym."
He averages about 500 pieces of trash a day. And on the day we spoke, he was up to "20,632 pieces of trash that I have picked up myself so far this year."
After becoming the change he wants to see, Birdman's neighborhood started looking better. And the response generated by the pictures he posted on Facebook encouraged him to organize for a cleaner future.
Birdman's Trash Initiative begat "The Flash Trash Mob," which, "is where a bunch of us get together, go somewhere, clean up a bunch of trash, and leave. Basically like a flash mob, but of trash."
So far, the group has cleaned up at Greynold's Park, Enchanted Forest Park, Arch Creek East, and a canal in Hialeah that was so full of trash that they spent two days there.
The monumental nature of the litter problem is astounding.
"It's epic," he says. "It's serious. All that debris off Beer Can Island. Trash that blows off boats and ends up in the rocks. The huge bags of whole trash that we pulled out of that canal. All of the water bottles. All of the flyers. All of the stuff that nobody ever picks up, that's why we do it."
Courtesy of Sean "Birdman" Gould
The next Flash Trash Mobs happen this Sunday, March 2, and next Sunday, March 9, and Birdman's army of volunteers are psyched.
"These people, these young volunteers have a great attitude, and they have a great time doing it. And you see the difference immediately. What was once clutter and litter is now green, and it's like, wow, that's awesome, 'cause without doing it, it doesn't get done."
As for Birdman, picking up trash has been a transformative educational social experience. He says, "I can tell you so much about trash now, it's crazy. I met all these people in the trash, ecological, enviro, recycle community, including one girl who wants all my water bottles, so lately I started separating some of the trash. Out in the field, it's hard to do that because I'm busting butt, just picking up as fast as I can. That's how I get such big numbers."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Birdman wants your help too. The details of the #TrashFlashMob5 at Arch Creek East Environmental Preserve and #TrashFlashMob6 at Haulover Marine Park are on his Birdman's Trash Initiative group on Facebook, and even the park workers are excited.
"I went up and told them about what I'm doing and they go 'Dude, that's awesome,' and they told me exactly where to go, right along the rocks on the Intracoastal where all the trash gets stuck."