Constantly, hearing from my parents that little girls don’t do this or that. After so many times, they realized I wasn’t going to be that traditional southern girl. Growing up in the South as a black girl made it very hard to express my love and passion for tattoos. To my disliking, tattoos were viewed as gang or neighborhood affiliation and/or represent jail time.
They weren’t as relevant or visible as they are today, especially in the “professional” world. Society viewed them as unattractive or devalued, especially for black girls. But regardless of how people viewed them, I’ve always found them powerful and gain calmness in the creativity of tattoos; drawing of the piece, process of piece placement, the color choices, and more importantly the story related to it.
For years western civilization viewed tattoos negatively. Although it introduces the culture of tattoos to the younger generation by grasping kids attention with beautiful and creative band aides. Band aides are the first creative temporary art that kids stick all over their body. As a young girl, I was a little on the goofy/rough side so I was always hurting myself; injuries from neighborhood kickball to wrestling with my brother and cousins in the yard.
My ugly wounds are covered by my beautiful band aide and the pain somewhat starts to fade away and I start to magically calm down. Walking proudly now that the pain has been covered by something intriguing and creative, I’m encouraged to get up and try it again or better yet, NEVER DO IT AGAIN! Regardless of the lesson learned, the beautiful band aide reminded me of the pain and the ability to get through the pain to see the other side.
As any female , I seek approval from my family. Society taught us no father wants to hear their little girl fascinated over some inked covered person and no mother wants her princess marking or compromising their skin. Unfortunately, as a black southern girl we’re taught tattoos aren’t ladylike, professional, and will not financially support us or our family . So it was very hurtful and disappointing when I didn’t get that support from them.
At thirteen, hard reality about tattoos and society hit me. My mom took my brother to get his first tattoo and when I asked if she would do the same for me, she said no. Later on, she finally explained her reasoning behind me, a black girl, not getting tattoos. She explained that it will make my life harder for me professionally and personally.
Jobs won’t hire me, I’ll never make it up the corporate ladder, and I won’t be respected. Society will associate me with certain lifestyles or prejudge me. Most importantly, the world is different for men and women. It was some hard truth behind her words although I didn’t want to hear it. I could not be upset at her because even society today has those same perceptions.
One day I saw a picture of a person dressed half in a suit and the other half in his boxers. He was covered from the base of his neck to his toes. That image was powerful and started to overshadow those “Negative Nancy” types about tattoos and professionalism. The image spoke so much without speaking. His tattoos didn’t define him or stop him from accomplishing his goals. Unfortunately his tattoos were still covered but it still gave hope that one day it’ll be acceptable.
Having the rebellious and fearless spirit, I was determined to prove everyone wrong. Proving that tattoos don’t measure a person’s socioeconomic status, well-being, intellect, or character. Also learning about different cultures and how they viewed body art, gave reassurance that tattoos aren’t as negative as Western culture portrays them. In certain cultures, tattoos are powerful, rich, prestigious, and spiritual. This understanding of different cultures gave me more push to get them regardless of the negative connotation associated with it.
But I fell deeply in love with getting tattoos when I got my first tattoo, BY MYSELF, at eighteen. I did my research on local artists, their health scores, creativeness, and pricing. One thing I didn’t see during my research was pictures of artist healed work, so I went by referrals. Lucky for me one the referrals were one of my top three.
I got a butterfly on my ankle and during the process I realized I didn’t research which part of the body would hurt so much, LOL. The pain came as soon as the needle hit my skin. I immediately started to regret my decision but after about thirty minutes and the pain eased up. I started to see my tattoo becoming a beautiful piece. The color was so vibrant on my darker skin. The lines were so smooth and the shading was perfect. I was so excited but I didn’t show it off too fast because it wasn’t acceptable by those around me, especially while working in the healthcare field.
As I continued to experience life and the obstacles I faced, I continued to get tattoos. My tattoos reminded where I’ve been and how I am still alive to tell about it. It’s also my art collection as I chose the artist with creativity and cleanliness about their work. My personal art collection is called “Creative Bandage Art Collection” because they’re just like those temporary band aides that I used when I was younger to cover those physical injuries.
True success cannot be seen with the human eye, but it can be felt through genuine warmth and connection. Being a Black Girl in the South with tattoos did not limit my success. They haven’t stop me from being professional or accomplishing my goals. My past did not determine my future and tattoos definitely does not make me a gang member or a criminal. My tattoos are a beautiful part of me.