Maryland Moments: Erasing hate one tattoo at a time

BALTIMORE (WBFF) - A local tattoo artist is erasing racism and gang affiliations for free, with no questions asked.

Seven days a week, the ink is flowing at SouthSide Tattoo in Brooklyn Park, just south of Baltimore.

A tattoo artist for more than 25 years, Dave Cutlip says he’s done nearly a million tattoos.

“There were times I did ten tattoos a day,” says Cutlip. However, there are eight recent tattoos that stick out the most.

Around 1 p.m. Tuesday, a man in his mid-thirties entered Cutlip’s shop. He was excited to get two large skulls tattooed on his shoulder. The man, “Hank,” is a former gang member who does not want to be identified for fear for his safety. He has a large cross with a crown covering most of his right shoulder.

“It's a Simon City Royals patch,” he mumbles. Hank’s been trying to get rid of the notorious gang tattoo for three years. “Murders, drugs, running guns - it became a problem in South Mississippi."

“Everywhere you look, someone's dead. Most of my friends have passed on, killed or overdosed," he says.

Even after a move to the East Coast gave him a fresh start, he still carries the target on his arm.

“It’s pretty big. It’s a blessing to get it covered up,” he says.

Cutlip is giving him a way out, covering up his tattoo - erasing his past and giving him a future.

Hank says: “For something that's got me shot, beat, I’m glad to get rid of.”

This tattoo cover would normally cost about $600, but Cutlip is volunteering his time and talent to give Hank and others in his situation a fresh start for free.

“I just wanted to help some people, is really how it went down,” Cutlip says.

Hank is Cutlip’s eighth cover-up since he began the project.

“Helping someone move on feels good,” says Cutlip. “It makes me sleep good at night.”

About a month ago, Cutlip and his wife posted to Facebook offering to cover up racist and gang-affiliated tattoos for free.

Cutlip describes how they came up with the idea: “I had this guy come in, he was a member of the Black Guerilla Family, he had B.G.F. on his face and he said, ‘I have a really good job, but the people follow me around, it's killing me, this tattoo is killing me'… I could see the hurt in his eyes, it really bothered him.”

Cutlip and his wife wanted to help. From there, the Random Acts of Tattoo project was born. On Tuesdays, Cutlip offers free cover-ups to help erase hate. He and his wife also started a page, raising money to help others do the same thing across the country.

The project has taken on a life of its own. In the five hours Fox45 spent at the shop, the phone did not stop ringing.

Cutlip’s friend, David Ente, is volunteering to help with phone calls and social media requests. “It's a good thing, but it's also an overwhelming thing,” Ente says as he answers another phone call.

The shop’s Facebook page has a continual stream of messages. Ente says every time he responds to one, another pops in.

“He’s had people calling from all over the country," says Ente.

As Cutlip offers an unlikely home for second chances, “my new computer is crashing because it's such an overload of messages,” he says. “That's how much of a need there is. It’s great that I’m able to help them, but if there is anyone out there who wants to join in, please, I could use the help.”

Embarrased, burdened and fearful, for years, Hank has hidden the symbol of hate.

“I’ve got cop friends,” he says. “I kept a shirt on when we all went to the beach last year just so he didn't see.”

Now a husband and father, Hank says a few hours with Cutlip was worth the three-year wait.

“This is an awesome program,” He says while tearing up. “Hard to put in words... He's doing a lot of people good deeds.”

With a first look at his new tattoo, Hank says: “It's a masterpiece compared to what was on it before.”

It's one final cover-up, so he won’t have to hide anymore.

As No. 8 closes the door on his past, Cutlip’s ready for No. 9.

“I'll never forget this for as long as live. That's a great thing,” says Cutlip. “I love this city, I really do.”

Here is a link to the Random Acts of Tattoo project:

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