Tattoos are a beautiful avenue of self expression.
However, some show people who were involved in gangs or hate groups in the past, they can be a very visible reminder of a mistake a person has made. Since tattoo removal is such a painful and expensive process, it remains out of reach for many, leading to social and career consequences. .
The Gallery X Art Collective in Murray, Kentucy, posted an offer on Facebook last week to cover up any racist, hateful, or gang-related tattoos free of charge—and in the first week, they received 30 requests.
The shops owners Jeremiah Swift and Ryun King, say they were inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement to do their part to end discrimination and support those who have had the courage to leave their hateful past behind.
“A lot of people when they were younger just didn’t know any better and were left with mistakes on their bodies. We just want to make sure everybody has a chance to change,” Jeremiah told CNN.
So far, their friendly tattoo artists have covered up a large swastika on a man’s chest—which embarrassed him so much he never took his shirt off around his children—and they’ve reinvented the arms of a man which had been completely covered in hate symbols.
Their first pro bono client was a woman named Jennifer Tucker. Now a mother of two, she regretted the confederate flag tattoo she got at 18. She credits the youthful mistake to having grown up in an all-white neighborhood where the flag was frequently flown with pride.
After she moved away from her hometown and got involved in peace movements to end racial injustice, her mind was opened.
“Every time I attend a group meeting or protest, I make a new friend,” she told CNN. “And I don’t want to be standing next to them with a confederate flag on my leg.”
Thanks to Jeremiah’s creativity, what was once an emblem of hate has been converted into a humorous conversation starter: a cartoon character called ‘Pickle Rick’ from Ricky and Morty.
Jeremiah and Ryun’s good work derives from a similar spirit shown by a tattoo parlor that made the same offer to people in Maryland. In 2017, Southside Tattoo became booked solid for 6 months taking care of people wanting similar tattoos covered up. This inspired the owners, Elizabeth and David Cutlip, to start the Random Acts of Tattoo foundation to create and fund a network of artists around the world willing to help folks get a fresh start.