Ink and Activism

Grim City Tattoo Club makes history with free laser removal

By: Jaina Kelly, Staff Writer

In Hamilton, a tattoo shop is making history with its dedication to human rights activism. The shop, named Grim City Tattoo Club, is offering free laser removal of any tattoos that bear trauma for the individual. This can include human trafficking brands, gang signs, radiation marks, discolouration due to trauma, as well as any type of racist imagery. Owner, Memphis Cadeau, spoke to The Argus over the phone about the shop’s decision to introduce free services for those who could not otherwise afford them. Indeed, the service is hardly accessible for most people: laser removal can cost thousands of dollars before the image is even partly faded.

PC: Grimm City Tattoo Club

Cadeau, a model with a significant following on social media, says she was unhappy with the way she was participating in our culture’s reactionary politics. She explained that as a society, we have a tendency to get riled up about events right after they happen, and once the trend on social media has died, we often forget about what was so heated the week before. This leads to fizzled out feelings of passion that never cultivate action. Offering these removal treatments to people who have faced trauma  is her way of inciting action in her community and making a positive difference for those who carry painful reminders along with their unwanted tattoos.

There are two laser technicians working at Grim City, who also help sort through all the email responses to the cause. The content of the messages is usually upsetting, but Cadeau explained that having such a strong family at Grim City is what helps them handle the sensitive subject matter without feeling overwhelmed. While it is possible to instead to get a cover-up tattoo over top of a traumatic marking, Cadeau says that a lot of people need the psychological experience of having the image fully removed, rather than simply covered. It offers a deeper and more permanent feeling of relief from whatever distress is attached to the marking.

Since their public announcement of the free service, the tattoo shop has been inundated with requests: Cadeau approximates the total email responses to be about three thousand. Clearly, the issue is far reaching – they have even received a message from an individual in South America asking about scars from stab wounds. In the Hamilton community, the shop’s cause has encouraged support to flow from local vegan restaurants (Grim City is a 100% vegan shop) as well as the local music industry, which offers their support in the form of bands and records.

Grim City’s commitment to helping their community can be a lesson to us all, by proving that activism doesn’t have to take form in grandiose action. Sometimes the most incredible moves of support happen when we simply use what we have within our personal power and circle. Being tattooed without consent leaves people feeling attached to the experience even after escaping; Cadeau’s initiative liberates people from pain, shame, and helps them fully embrace a new life. Who can argue with that?

Follow the shop, Cadeau and her husband on Instagram @memphiscadeau + @traviscadeau + @grimcityoriginal to follow their journey as they give back.