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An initiative to remove tattoos for free erases painful memories


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    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A program in Charlotte is giving people with past mistakes a fresh start at life. The program, Project Exodus, does laser removal of tattoos for people wanting to leave a painful past behind them -- everything from gang affiliation to drug abuse.

    “I’m just getting this tattoo removed so I can go into the military.”

    Micha Harrison has plans for the future as an aspiring music artist and military vet. But before the Air Force will let him in, he needs to get his neck tattoo removed. Something he doesn’t think will be a big deal.

    “It’s a little sharp when you get it done, I know it’ll be a little sharp when you remove it,” Harrison said.

    But Harrison may be underplaying just how painful the procedure really is.

    “Torture. It’s torture.”

    Brandon Feely is a laser removal specialist at Essential Aesthetics + Laser in Ballantyne. He helps run a program called Project Exodus. The team provides free tattoo removals for people ready to turn the page and put the past behind them.

    “We remove tattoos for them or anything that’s going to hinder them from getting a job or moving forward in life,” Feely said

    One of those people is Shakeel Allah.

    “It felt like I was being roasted alive.”

    He ran the streets of southside Chicago back in the day.

    “I was part of a gang in my neighborhood,” Allah told WBTV’s Ron Lee

    But now he’s ready to remove his gang-affiliation tattoos and push ahead with a fresh start.

    “I want to present myself as a person who is striving for positivity,” Allah said.

    Some had a darker path to travel before getting here.

    “We kind of fell into the path of addiction.”

    Tess Monty says she was involved in a horrific car crash that took the life of her soulmate James. She said she was driving friends with drugs in the car when police in Wisconsin tried to stop them leading to a short chase. She said she ran a stop sign just before colliding with another car. Her boyfriend was killed in the accident.

    “That love was so strong, it really became like a spirit,” Monty said.

    She says she served over a year in prison for the incident. Now, she wants to start the process of removing a tattoo that ties her to the person she used to be.

    “I don’t have to wear my scars that remind me of all of that pain,” she told us.

    But even though her tattoo is disappearing, she doesn’t want to forget everything.

    “I do feel like James is always with me,” Monty said.

    Tess was trained as a community health worker and says she wants to help people with addictions who went down the same path she did.

    For more information and to request a consultation for the free service, click here.

    Copyright 2023 WBTV. All rights reserved.

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