Olivia Tomaselli, a Mercer Island High School sophomore, and her mother, Rachel, started tie-dying clothing for themselves and their friends at the start of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic as a creative quarantine activity.
Last week, the Tomasellis, like many, started seeing the influx of regional and nationwide demonstrations in response to the May 25 police killing of George Floyd and other black Americans. Wanting to show solidarity with the black community tangibly, Olivia thought one way to do this would be to make her and her mom’s newfound tie-dying hobby actively useful.
“I just kind of thought, why don’t we use this for good and sell them?” Olivia said in an interview with the Reporter.
So on May 31, the Tomasellis launched a new project: Tie Dye for Black Lives Matter. Interested customers can request via Instagram DM any color tank top ($15), sweatshirt ($30), sweatpants ($25) or a specifically requested clothing item; 100 percent of the profits benefit the Black Lives Matter Global Netrwork. (Fifty percent of proceeds go directly to the organization, with the other 50 going toward buying more supplies.)
“It’s a really important topic,” Olivia said. “Even if it’s a small contribution, it needs to inspire others to take steps.”
Even though the project was kickstarted a few days ago (the Tomasellis only have a promotional Instagram page, with an official website soon potentially on the way), Olivia said supporters came to act fast.
As of June 3, Tie Dye for Black Lives Matter had raised $500.
The majority of customers, Olivia said, have been Mercer Islanders, with a few out of state and one from Australia. The Tomasellis themselves hail from Australia and moved to Mercer Island in 2013, when Olivia was 9 years old.
Olivia is juggling the new project with school and cheer-team responsibilities, but said that ultimately it’s been manageable — “it’s about time management,” she said.
She wants Tie Dye for Black Lives Matter to continue expanding its reach.
“I hope that it can be a long-term thing, just so we can raise more and more money for this, and get it going across to more people on the Island,” Olivia said.
Donating to key organizations such as Black Lives Matter is one way to support. But Olivia, who noted that she is continuing to learn more about police brutality and racial inequality herself, emphasized the importance of staying educated and speaking out.
“I know it’s impossible for anyone with my privilege to understand what the black community and any others who experience racial inequality goes through,” she said. “I just want to stand with them, learn from them and cry with them. I think for everyone to do this, they need to be educated and have uncomfortable conversations. But I’m really glad that even though my contribution is small, it’ll start something, and hopefully inspire others to take that step outside their comfort zone.”