Portland Thorns pick local, Black-owned business for $25K grant


"It's life-changing...I'm over the moon excited, so thank, Thorns."

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Playing for a title is one thing, but playing to benefit a local business is next-level. By winning the NWSL Fall Series, the Portland Thorns won the Verizon Community Shield, which allows them to give a $25,000 grant to the local business of their choice. The business they chose? Mimi’s Fresh Tees.

“Having this opportunity to play for something so much bigger than us and be able to give back to such an amazing company who’s doing work that’s so much bigger than us and soccer, I think, is so important and what the Thorns are about,” said Thorns forward Simone Charley. She said Mimi’s “jumped off the page” of the list of organizations and small businesses eligible for the grant.

And that small business is run by Kamelah Adams.

“I’m from Portland, Oregon,” said Adams. “Been here all my life.”

Her t-shirt company is intent on spreading love and ending racism, after she watched her son’s experience in school.

Kamelah Adams, owner of Mimi’s Fresh Tees, speaks to KOIN 6 News about being awarded a grant by the Portland Thorns. October 2020 (KOIN)

“There’s always a message behind my shirts,” said Adams. “As a young Black boy, his experience is different than mine, as a Black woman, and I guess I just didn’t really realize it until I’ve seen it firsthand and I was like, ‘This is unacceptable, we have to do something, let’s start conversations by using your shirt as a billboard.'”

Mimi’s Fresh Tees focuses of messages of racial equality and female empowerment.

But in July, Adams received a message of a much different kind.

“I received a hate letter to my address, my home address, that was horrifying and there was racism right there in our face,” said Adams. The letter was filled with racial slurs, and the threat of coming to kill her and her daughter with the sender’s AR-15.

“You go through several different emotions—you go through fear, you go through anger. I was really fearful for me and my children’s safety,” explained Adams. “We’ve gotten a lot better and my family and I are safe, but we’re still processing it too.”

But as she always finds: love drowns out hate.

A Mimi’s Fresh Tees t-shirt design. October 2020 (KOIN)

“My community members, my old PTA friends all stepped up and they just wrapped love around me and that is what energized me to keep going,” said Adams. She then launched the “PDX Love Over Hate” campaign.

“We wanted to reclaim the space back.”

The campaign gives a voice to other victims of racial discrimination and the yard signs she created serve as landmarks for the community of Portland.

“It’s important… for children who’ve experienced hate to see these signs and say, ‘This is a safe place for me to go,'” said Adams.

The money gifted to Mimi’s Fresh Tees from the grant ensures that she can continue to spread love, over hate, in Portland.

“It’s life-changing,” said Adams. “I’m so thankful and very honored that they would pick my small business. I’m over the moon excited, so thank, Thorns.”

Kamelah Adams, owner of Mimi’s Fresh Tees. October 2020 (KOIN)

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