A tattoo parlor doing its part to aid the Black Lives Matter movement is helping people move on from past mistakes by offering free coverups to those who have been tattooed with hate or gang symbols.
Tattoo Artists Jeremiah Swift and Ryun King of Gallery X Art Collective in Murray, Kentucky are taking action amid nationwide protests calling for an end to police brutality and devastating systemic racism.
“It’s definitely a long-overdue change,” King told CNN.
“I just wanted to help out in some way,” said Swift. “It’s the only platform I have.”
The shop advertised their offer on Facebook about a week ago and have already received over 30 coverup requests. The tattoo artists say interest doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
This goes for you that have gang tattoos as well.Gallery X Art Collective would like to extend the offer to change your...Posted by Gallery X Art Collective on Sunday, June 7, 2020
Jennifer Tucker, 36, was the first customer to take the shop up on its offer. She told KFVS she’d wanted the Confederate flag she’d had tattooed on her ankle when she was 18 covered.
“It’s a symbol of hatred and I want it off me,” she said.
“I went to a school where there wasn’t a single black person,” Tucker told CNN. “Our community had no black families, they would literally run them out every time one moved in. Everyone in my school flew rebel flags and had rebel flag tattoos and I bandwagoned and got the tattoo. It was a horrible thing to do.”
Tucked moved away from her high school town and became involved in solidarity movements and racial equality causes as an adult.
Finally after nearly 20 years of “looking down at the tattoo regretting it,” King covered Tucker’s tattoo with Pickle Rick from the cartoon Rick and Morty.
“Having anything hate-related is completely unacceptable. 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,” said King.
Tucker said the coverup was “life-changing.”
“I knew I had to do it, to be an example for other people who were in the same position. There’s not a whole lot I can do, but this is something I can do to spread love, not hate.”
Thanks to the tattoo artists’ generosity, like Tucker, many others have been able to start on a new path.
“One of the people we got was a man with both of his forearms completely covered in hate symbols, absolutely everywhere. How is this man going to interact with society with the mistakes he made 10, 15, 20 years ago?” King said.
“We also got a guy with a giant swastika who said he has never taken his shirt off in front of his kids. I like seeing that. I like seeing people want to change themselves for the better. That swells me full of emotions.”
Among those resistant to social change are people— white people— who may be too ashamed of their own history to admit past wrongdoing and begin the humbling work of reshaping their identities for the future.
But the only way for America to create a new future is for the country to examine its own brutally racist origin story. Ours is a nation built through the displacement of indigenous populations, on the backs of enslaved people. Today, the legacy of hate has evolved into a system of mass incarceration of Black and Brown people.
Swift and King aren’t simply erasing the past, they are sending the message that all is not lost— we can change and be better. Covering up or removing signifiers of hate in the form of tattoos, monuments, flags or propaganda is a first step.
Swift and King will cover tattoos for anyone who wants to commit to a new, more peaceful and just future.