Ink the Diaspora In the Industry

In the Diaspora (ITD) is described in the Instagram Bio as:

a platform that is for visibility of brown&dark skin folks who struggle to find representation 4 tattoos.

Tann Parker (who uses they/them pronouns) is based in Brooklyn and created ITD when they saw a great need. They are currently a tattoo consultant – they provide information and advocacy for people wanting tattoo related resources, including referrals for artists who are skilled and accustomed to working on dark skin. 

 Tann reached out to us to be one of our Sponsored Artists. After reading about their relationship with the tattoo industry and the difference they are making in education and empowering people, of course I agreed. Tann is now embarking on a journey to teach themself stick and poke (or ‘hand poke’) tattooing so that they can give people with deep skin tones a color swatch tattoo. This is a way for people to know how different colors come through on their skin. This can inform a tattoo artist’s palette for a confident new color tattoo. 

S&P has since started a video project documenting Tann’s first color swatch tattoo (on themself) using our products. This will be posted on our Blog and our YouTube channel in March 2020. Make sure to check it out!

 

In this Tattoodo article, Tann describes an uncomfortable experience with getting a tattoo (in 2013) and the artist suggested scarring their skin to do a cover up. They continue,

 “…that’s when I knew white tattoo artists don’t know everything there is to know about tattooing…..White tattoo artists are not gate keepers to tattooing and they don’t possess all the answers and knowledge that comes with tattooing.”

MYTHS ABOUT TATTOOING ON DARK SKIN

There are many articles out there where Tann and others educate us…and I am learning a lot. Especially about some simplified myths that I also ignorantly held to be true.  For example, in the industry it’s thought that in order to do a tattoo on a dark skinned person, you must go over it several times and really work the ink into the skin. Also, that high melanin levels mean that skin will naturally scar and form keloids. However, I see that these beliefs not only false, but they have roots in racism. The facts are that dark skin benefits from a lighter touch and does not always scar. Skin undertones play a great role in determining what colors pop and how they will look in a tattoo. These are ideas that involve learning about and taking care of the clients asking to be tattooed in your shop. It’s baseline. Industry dismissal and impatience over these facts, and historic ignorance and groaning about tattooing on a dark complexion –  is one way we can see racism manifest in this industry. {Racism is everywhere…this is something we must continually, actively search to find, stay alert to, name, talk about, transform.}

 

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Getting a tattoo can be such a transformative experience ✨ What was the first tattoo you got? Tell us in the comments 👇🏿

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{This is a video with Tann that features black millennial women discussing their tattoos and experience.}

Stick & Poke Tattoo Kit® is not part of the mainstream tattoo industry (rather somewhat in opposition), and therefore I had not heard of the drama surrounding famous white artist, Bang Bang, and the industry’s defensiveness and swirling micro-aggressions. As a white, queer person I notice the sexism, straightness – and the whiteness of an industry that is sitting upon a complex practice with widespread, indigenous and diverse roots – in method, technique, history. Despite this, here we are with one path, one way to certify, one way to move up in the industry. One way to tattoo “properly.” It’s clear that this industry, like many others, has many entitled gatekeepers and these people are, of course:  white, hetero, cis males.

HOW TO BECOME A TATTOO ARTIST

“There are plenty of DIY artists out there, many of them POC, who have been pushed out from the tattooing industry because they don’t have access to the resources, people, or teachings that would enable them to become full-fledged tattoo artists. On the other side of that, western tattooing is still heavily saturated with white men tattooers, and a lot of times, that makes it so there isn’t the proper environment or space for POC to get tattooed, whether they experience racism or general unease. There has to be opportunity for POC to be taught how to tattoo so they may hold space for their own people.” – Tann 

The path to professional tattoo artistry in an established tattoo shop is tricky. It is MUCH more likely to happen to those prone to hanging around tattoo shops/bars with dudes who like to draw pin-ups, wear Ben Davis or skate brands, have motorcycles/classic cars and take themselves very seriously (read: toxic/fragile masculinity).  In other words, to move up that chain, you’re likely going to need to be a resourced, cis white dude. What are the coming of age stories of the most famous seasoned artists today?  These are stories about lots of free time, hanging in white spaces with tattoo bros.  Who is going to be able to get in that crowd? More white men…and yes, some bad ass white women/non-binary/trans or POC who endure the presence of majority white men in an environment that at times is wholly unaware/defensive of its’ tendency towards the toxic. 

I am learning that there is additional resistance and BS that comes with being POC working within this toxic industry – or a dark skinned client having to advocate for one’s design and color scheme.

So, the requests are flooding in! Tann mentions in the video that they have a very long list of people that are ready and waiting to get tattooed by them – and Tann has yet to tattoo professionally at all! People want to avoid being uncomfortable and microagressed, especially when it comes to something as personal and intimate as a tattoo. 

Tann explains why representation is so important: 

“Getting a tattoo from a tattoo artist that looks like you is so important. Especially when someone is getting a cultural significance tattoo. It’s important for Black and PoC communities to get a tattoo from someone who shares the same cultural background. The practice of certain styles, symbols, and patterns that have cultural significance should be something that is shared amongst people who are in the diaspora. People are collecting tattoos for different reasons and wanting an artist that reflects them is realistic in this day and age we live in. For myself, I don’t think I would have been inspired to collect more tattoos if I had not been introduced to Doreen Garner. The lack of representation of non-white artists just embeds the tattoo industry in its colonized history. Black and PoC tattoo artists are needed in the tattoo industry.

color swatch tattoo

Summary: Tattoos are a vulnerable thing and now a days you don’t have to get tattooed by the “typical” sexist white dude tattoo artist!…you can get hooked up with a number of queer, female, non binary, black,  POC artists in your area. And Ink The Diaspora can help you! If you are an artist that is aware, sensitive, knowledgeable, you can fill out this form to be put in the ITD directory. 

Thank the GODDESS we don’t live in 2010, but 2020! Instagram and other avenues connect us all directly so we can bypass the gatekeepers. We hope for a new generation of professional artists and shops that represent an array of genders, sexualities, races, religions and backgrounds……Boy, Bye!

Find Ink The Diaspora on Instagram: @Inkthediaspora or at the link above.