On Saturday, while driving to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) location on SE Division, Nikeisah C. Newton — the owner of sex worker food delivery service Meals 4 Heels — noticed a police officer following her. She tried to stay calm, but she felt her fear beginning to rise. “I was scared, I was anxious,” she said. “When I walked into APANO, I broke down and started crying. I don’t want to feel that ever again.”
Newton — a black lesbian woman — has been dealing with racism for much of her life. She’s attended protests for years, including the one where Michael Strickland pulled a gun on protesters in 2016. But since she opened her business last year, serving produce-heavy grain and noodle bowls to sex workers and dancers across Portland, she’s started feeding people at events and protests, including the Trans Pride March and, most recently, stationed outside Revolution Hall last Thursday.
Newton’s latest event — serving bowls of tom kha-roasted cauliflower with sweet potato noodles and veggies — was a partnership with Snack Bloc, a collective of volunteers who provide free snacks, water, and supplies to protesters in the Portland area. The Snack Bloc team reached out to Newton a year ago, and they have worked together multiple times to serve free food. But at the Thursday protest, Newton was selling her “GTP (Gettin’ That Paper)” bowls at the Snack Bloc stand, because “this particular event (was) about putting your money where your mouth is.” Even so, Newton donated another 25 meals to give out for free the next day.
Newton’s work goes beyond protest service. Because Newton works so closely with dancers at Portland’s various strip clubs, she’s been a vocal ally for dancers, sharing information about the Portland Stripper’s Strike and donating funds to the Black SW (Sex Workers) Relief Fund. She’s also been volunteering for the Free Lunch Collective, a mutual aid program that feeds food-insecure populations like homeless communities, as well as delivering meals for the activist and policy development organization Forward Together. Down the line, she would like to start distributing health and wellness kits to sex workers and restaurant workers, sourcing from black-owned business owners and artists.
“Now that I run my own shit, I get to work with who I want. I don’t have that stress and strain of having to act right,” Newton says. “I get to choose who I work with, I get to work with women and women of color. There’s freedom. There’s absolutely freedom in owning your business, turning to your own community for support.”
Most simply, however, she wants to continue to feed protesters — as long as they keep protesting. “Trying to get the change to happen should be something every American should be doing every day,” she says. “I get the protests, but I want to hope that in two or three months, people are at City Hall. I want people to know how the Oregon budget is allocated. It’s action, but it’s also follow-through.”
• Meals 4 Heels [Official]
• Meals 4 Heels [Instagram]
• Portland’s New Delivery Company Serves Grain Bowls to Strippers [EPDX]