When Northeast Portlander Kamelah (Mimi) Adams came home last Monday, she says she found a handwritten letter had been delivered, addressed directly to her.
“I opened it up, and read it as I entered my front door, and it took my breath away,” says Adams, owner of Mimi’s Fresh Tees. The letter, a racist diatribe, was littered with slurs and threatened violence against Adams and her daughter. “I was living my life and keeping to myself. Living my life in this skin and suddenly my world was violated,” she said in an Instagram post in which she published an image of the letter. “Like all of us, I want to be safe physically and emotionally. And that was taken away from me. This is the experience of black people in Portland in 2020. This is not unique. I am not the first and, unfortunately, I won’t be the last.”
Adams, who appeared on KOIN last week to talk about her business and recent protests demanding racial justice, was ready to shut down Mimi’s Fresh Tees after receiving the letter, she says, until her friends dissuaded her. “They were like, ‘That’s what they want you to do,’” she says. Instead, they created a GoFundMe to help her find safe housing for herself and her family, and for her to continue to grow her business, creating T-shirts with antiracist slogans that have been appearing at protests across the city over recent weeks.
Adams first created Mimi’s Fresh Tees more than two years ago to start a conversation around racial inequities, and to express some of the things many in her community were tired of having to keep articulating. “Sometimes you don’t want to have conversations, you want to say: read my shirt, this is how I’m feeling right now.”
But it wasn’t until last month, amid an international movement protesting long-standing racial inequities, that her business really began to find success. Then came the letter, which Adams says she wanted to share because “this is what people of color are experiencing right here in Portland right now. It’s not safe for us.” She knows of others who have received similar correspondence, but says despite her own fear for her safety, she is determined to rededicate herself to her business.
“Hate is not going to win,” says Adams. “Love over hate. The amount of love that I have received from community members, friends, people I don’t even know! People don’t want to tolerate this anymore—and that is what I’m seeing from community members in Portland. That’s the message I want to get across. Hate will not win here.”