Thursday, June 1, 2023

'With us forever': Hundreds line up for tattoos benefitting MSU mass shooting victims' families

February 19, 2023
Tattoo Artist Alex Martinez tattoos the Spartan helmet onto customer and mental healthcare worker, Chelsea Ghastin during the Spartan Strong event at Ink Therapy on Feb. 19, 2023.
Tattoo Artist Alex Martinez tattoos the Spartan helmet onto customer and mental healthcare worker, Chelsea Ghastin during the Spartan Strong event at Ink Therapy on Feb. 19, 2023. —
Photo by Audrey Richardson | The State News

At 5:30 p.m., five hours after the first tattoo was inked, the line outside of Ink Therapy Lansing is still trailing outside of the doors. Some groups waited more than two hours to get Spartan helmet or a green heart tattooed — art that supported the victims of the mass shooting on Michigan State University's campus on Monday, Feb. 13.

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A large line formed outside of Ink Therapy during the Spartan Strong event to support the East Lansing community on Feb. 19, 2023.

Owner Corey Warren brings out a megaphone and calls out names of those who are next to get inked. Yells of excitement from the crowd fill the studio

Ink Therapy offered pre-selected tattoo options centered around MSU. Each tattoo was $40 and half of the proceeds went to the victims’ families to help cover their expenses

Warren is a father with children in school. His first thought when he heard of the MSU shooting was what it would be like to lose his child, he said. He then thought of the families of the victims and knew he had to put together an event to support them financially.

“I don't care if it's $10, $20, $100 or $1,000,” Warren said. “It doesn’t matter, let's do something. Let's be a part of this in some way to start to try to give back to the victims and the families and to the community in Michigan State. We wanted to do something, not that money is going to fix anything. We know that. But it's what we can do.”

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Ink Therapy Owner Corey Warren calls names for customers to come inside his business during the Spartan Strong event on Feb. 19, 2023.

The turnout was more than they had expected. 500 people had lined up by the time the shop opened and the line wrapped around the block. Warren said he wouldn’t describe himself as excited, but humbled.

Warren said it’s not about Ink Therapy and it’s not about the tattoos. The event, he said, is for uniting the community and the meaning behind the hashtag that has been shared since Monday: Spartan Strong.

“An event like this by nature is going to bring people together,” Warren said. “What we're doing right now is, we are almost branding ourselves proud to be a Spartan … It's putting that label on you that you're going to have forever saying, ‘I'm proud to be a Spartan.’” 

Brittini Warren, Corey’s wife and shop manager of Ink Therapy, was the one who came up with the idea for the event. She was in the middle of getting a tattoo when she heard about the shooting. She became extremely emotional and wanted to do anything to support those affected by it.

“The community felt the exact same, which is so amazing,” Brittni said. “We didn't expect this type of turnout at all. This is the biggest special that we've ever done easily. I mean, we are probably going to be here until sometime around morning maybe.

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Veterinary medicine first-year Jennifer Bezerra laughs with her peers, Veterinary medicine first-year Lynsie Taylor and Veterinary medicine first-year Maryann Khong, before getting a green-filled heart tattoo on the back of her left arm at Ink Therapy during the Spartan Strong event on Feb. 19, 2023.

Groups will be receiving until well after midnight, as the artist work for 12 hours straight. She said the turnout has “pulled on every single one of her heartstrings.”

As people came through the shop, waiting for their turn, the donation box for both the shop and the victims' families filled up.

Veterinary medicine first-year student Lynsie Taylor got her first tattoo at the event: an outline of the state of Michigan with a green heart on East Lansing. Born in Alabama, she wanted a tattoo that depicted that Michigan was still her home away from home, even after tragedy.

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Veterinary medicine first-year Lynsie Taylor gets an outline of Michigan tattooed on her right wrist during the Spartan Strong event at Ink Therapy on Feb. 19, 2023.

“(A tattoo) is something that you can use to say, 'this is me' without actually having to speak it,” Taylor said. 

The turnout solidified to Taylor that she is part of a whole Spartan community that wants to come together. She saw not just the university affected, but individuals across Greater Lansing.

Special education and learning disabilities junior Kaitlyn Jacques to the shop from the Spartan Sunday event. She wanted to get a peace sign on her arm to show solidarity while the community grieves. She wanted to get a tattoo anyway, but knowing that the proceeds would go to the families solidified her decision.

“For me, it's going to be about overcoming something so painful, remembering what happened and not letting it just go. It's with us forever basically and that's kind of like a tattoo. This isn't something that is just gonna go away. I don't think that anyone should … forget about this,"  Jacques said

Rachel Jackson is a Sparrow Hospital employee. She is in shock from the acts on Monday, she said. She decided to take the day to spend with her coworker to get a “Spartan Strong” tattoo.

"It's just something that's always there,” Jackson said. “It's a constant reminder and then it's always there for everyone to see.”

With the color green getting inked across the shop, some laughed at the funny faces their friends made when being poked with the needle and other community members thanked the tattoo artists for marking them with a permanent reminder of the strength of the Spartan community

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