'I wanted to make sure my messages were seen'; Wauwatosa designer uses T-shirts to spread social justice

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WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Chloe Longmire sits in her green chair in her basement office. A common, everyday routine after she leaves her 9 to 5 job. She's surrounded by powerful quotes, bright colors, and inspirational books. The secluded place in her home is where her passion meets reality.

"That's just my space where I can create," said Chloe. "I graduated from the Milwaukee School of Arts and I really feel it like kind of molded and shaped me into what I'm doing today with T-shirts."

These t-shirts are made with care and meaning. She jump-started her business in 2020.

"I was fortunate enough to garner a lot of support during a pandemic which I think it almost unheard of for businesses to start during that time," said Longmire.

Longmire makes shirts sending shockwaves throughout the community.

"I saw what was happening with black people in the media and I wanted to make sure my voice was heard or make sure messages were seen and it was clear where I stood and it kind of took off from there."

It's her fight against racial and social injustice, using her everyday experiences to tell a story.

"I've been part of trainings and webinars and it's just like I'll hear and see things and I will take what I am feeling, those emotions, frustrations and channel that into creating these powerful slogans, messages to put it on shirts," Longmire said.

Her shirts include messages like "tolerating racism is racism".

"That's probably one of my more popular shirts for sure," said Longmire. "A lot of people sit by and allow things to happen and might not say anything, may not call things out and I think that message speaks for itself."

Longmire moved away from Wauwatosa in 2016 but returned this year on a special assignment.

"As I started to really get deep into my anti-racism journey I was like I need to be where this message needs to be heard the loudest so I decided to put myself in this uncomfortable position because I know that's what this area needed," said Longmire.

Her move was intentional. "I was also part of protests in Wauwatosa prior to moving back where we were met with tear gas, just a lot of excessive force for people who were really just trying to make their voices heard," she said.

Longmire says people have been supportive of her journey, but not all.

"I do get the occasional disgruntled looks and disapproving glances even a comment where people think this is divisive but I think it was Audre Lorde who said it's not our differences that divides us, it's our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences."

Despite the nay-sayers she continues to create a path for her daughter, five-year-old Chase.

"Chase is the driving force behind everything I do because I want her to see her mother being willing to put herself on the line, take a stand, no matter what that response might be because it's the right thing," Longmire said.

"I think this world can be cruel sometimes to black people so I've always wanted her to know her blackness is enough, her blackness is powerful is beautiful," Longmire said.

Chase was her on mommy's hip protesting after George Floyd's death. "I've been very, very focused on making sure she understands why we're exactly protesting, exactly why mommy is making these shirts," Longmire said.

"I think that's why I am so direct and candid with my shirts because we need to get to the root and we need to get there fast because I don't want chase to have to be in the same seat where I am trying to fight this fight."

Longmire says she believes her direct approach has given hope to everyone in her shoes. "I feel like people are more aware, people are willing to have those conversations and I feel like people are more, open to engaging in the dialogue where it's like I don't feel like that was the case before," said Longmire.

For her, success is not the about money she makes from selling shirts but rather the community's progression.  

"If I can spark, one, two, three conversations that people have when they purchase my shirts with their family members, their friends, coworkers that can get a dialogue started then that's my goal. That's my purpose."

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