Tie Dye for Black Lives Matter: Mercer Island teen’s project raises funds for social justice movement

June 18, 2020 | by Sophia Maggio

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Olivia with some of her tie-dyed merchandise and her dog, Cookie.

When Olivia Tomaselli, a Mercer Island High School sophomore, and her mother began tie-dying various clothing items at the beginning of the COVID-19 stay-home order, they never expected their creative hobby to evolve into a social justice project.

But about two weeks ago, in response to the death of George Floyd who was killed by police on May 25th and to the deaths of so many other black Americans caused by racist violence, Olivia suggested that they sell their tie-dye creations and donate the proceeds to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Global Network Foundation.

The mother-daughter duo kicked off their promotional Instagram page, @tiedyeforblm, on May 31st. As of Saturday, June 13th, Olivia and her mother delivered over 50 orders and donated $1200 to the BLM Fund.

Their tank tops ($15), sweatshirts ($30), and sweatpants ($25) come in an array of unique colors and patterns, and customers can also request another tie-dyed clothing item of their choice. With each item sold, 50% of the proceeds are donated directly to the BLM Fund, and the remainder is used to purchase tie-dye supplies and materials.

Islanders who love tie-dye and want to support the BLM movement can directly message Olivia through their Instagram page, indicate their preferred product, size, and color, and arrange a time for a free personal delivery to their residence.

Up until recently, Olivia primarily made tie-dye deliveries to locally. Within the past few days, however, Olivia has received a number of out-of-state orders, including tie-dye requests from customers in Missouri, North Carolina, and New Jersey. She even received an order from Australia, where she lived with her family until moving to Mercer Island in 2013.

Olivia says her inspiration for her project comes from her belief that more education and action is needed in response to racial injustice.

“I’m aware of the privilege I have, and I really want to use the voice I have for good, and use the social media that my generation has evolved around for good,” she said.

Olivia is excited about the growing number of islanders who are initiating difficult conversations and taking action in response to racial injustice and police brutality. Above all, she hopes that others continue supporting BLM and “educating themselves about what’s going on every day, not just now.”

Olivia noted that her teachers and peers at Mercer Island High School have expressed their support for the BLM movement in a number of ways, in addition to purchasing her tie-dye creations.

“All of my teachers have spoken on it,” Olivia said, in reference to BLM and the systemic racism experienced by black Americans. Additionally, some of her teachers have set aside instruction time to discuss anti-racism and how systemic racism can be addressed on Mercer Island and beyond.

Olivia said other MIHS students have also set up donation funds through their social media profiles. A close friend of hers recently began selling stickers to generate funds for BLM. In the future, Olivia expressed interest in teaming up with her friend to sell stickers, as well as expanding her current line of tie-dye products to include hoodies and basic t-shirts.

As she continues to grow her business as well as her understanding of BLM, Olivia acknowledges that she is constantly learning and educating herself, while “continuing to stand with people” whose experiences differ greatly from her own. Difficult conversations around racial inequalities and police brutality “should happen every day,” she said, “and by having them, we’re supporting future generations at the same time.”

For more information and to purchase a handmade tie-dyed clothing item from Olivia, you can head to Instagram and send a direct message with your questions and/or order request to @tiedyeforblm.