The Nicest Place in Louisiana: Red Handed Tattoo in Shreveport

NICEST PLACES IN AMERICA 2020 FINALIST
"Donations From Unlikely Places"

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A tattoo-artist turned his shop into a free market for needed supplies during the pandemic.

When healthcare workers at Willis-Knighton Hospital in Shreveport needed more masks and thermometers as hospital supplies dwindled, they knew just where to turn. But it was the last place you’d expect: a tattoo parlor called Red Handed Tattoo on Kings Highway, across the street from Wendy’s.

By the time COVID-19 reached Louisiana, Micah Harold, owner of Red Handed Tattoo, had anticipated the demand for items like hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes and ordered them in bulk ahead of time. He wasn’t doing it to sell them at a big profit when demand spiked—he did it to supply those in need, for free.

Ever prescient, Harold closed Red Handed Tattoo a week before the city shut down, only to reopen a few days later as a makeshift general store. When people started hearing about what Harold had on offer, they began dropping off any pandemic necessities they could spare—an extra pack of toilet paper here, a few jugs of hand sanitizer there. Call it a marketplace of caring, by and for the people. Soon, healthcare workers caught on and popped in when they needed something.

“My tattoo shop looked like a Circle K,” Harold jokes, referring to the chain of convenience stores.

micah posing with toilet paper, hand sanitizerCourtesy Micah Harold (2)
Micah Harold collected hard-to-find supplies to ensure those who needed them could have access.

At first, the tattoo-shop-turned-convenience-store had trouble keeping up. Most days, there would be around 30 voicemails from people in need of supplies. But people in Shreveport wanted to help: restaurants would call Harold to come pick up the food they wouldn’t be able to serve; a manager at the Family Dollar would set aside a portion of the most in-demand products as soon as they came off the truck. Soon, a network of 20 volunteers self-organized to provide contactless deliveries to Shreveport residents who couldn’t risk coming out to Red Handed Tattoo themselves.

“People behave however they have to in order to survive and I try not to harbor judgment,” says Harold, “but I really began to notice all these other helpers, people who came out of nowhere and rose when their community called.”

Eventually, Red Handed Tattoo was able to resume tattooing when nonessential businesses reopened in Shreveport, but they kept up the relief efforts too. And when another crisis arose, Harold and his shop were there to help. Just a few weeks before the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, Tommie McGlothen Jr., a 44-year-old Black man, was killed by Shreveport police officers while taking him into custody. When the rest of America cried out for justice for Floyd, Shreveport joined in, also calling for the same for McGlothen.

A nurse friend of Harold’s organized a pop-up medical tent to support the efforts and, lucky for her, she had a great connection for supplies. Now, with masks and hand sanitizer easier to come by, Red Handed funnels all the donations it receives to the medical tent to help keep protestors hydrated, fed, and healthy.

“You see the world differently in desperate times. You start asking ‘is this person loving or hateful? Draining or inspiring?’” says Harold, boiling everything he’s experienced since the pandemic started to the concept of, Who wants to help make our community a better place? “Everything else falls to the side.”

tattoo parlor exteriorCourtesy Judy Chandler
From fresh ink to medical-grade protective gear, Red Handed Tattoo is stocked.

The Nomination

A year ago, Micah Harold had a heart attack, and actually died several times. Now, a year later, the coronavirus is here. Micah owns a tattoo parlor (he is an extremely talented artist), and his tattoo parlor has been closed, because it is “non-essential”. But Micah has stepped up and is giving back to the community. His shop is on the edge of a not-so-affluent part of town. He has stocked his shop with essentials, such as toilet paper, paper towels, different types of non-perishable foods and emergency items. Some things he bought with his own money, and he has had some donations from the community. He makes hand sanitizer and also has gloves and other items that people need for this pandemic available in his shop. Everything is free. You just go in, tell him what you need, and he gives it to you. His mother, Deborah Allen is also involved, not in his business, but in making cloth masks for people. She has long been a clothing designer, and now she is making masks and giving them away. They are both helping the community a great deal.

I’m just a retired teacher who is keeping herself inside during this pandemic. I stay on the internet about 8 hours per day, and I see what is going on. Everyone at this point is pretty much self-distancing, and staying in as much as possible. It’s the pandemic.

I think that the neighborhood that I live in is fairly “nice”. There have always been nice and kind people here. My opinion has not changed. There is a lot of street violence here (more than you would expect for a town this size). I was just touched by seeing Micah step up like he has. I know his mother, and she has always been a very kind person. I do know that there are people who are making masks for people all over town, but I don’t know who is doing it, except for Deborah. There is a group doing it as well, but I don’t know them either. Their name is “Sew You Care Shreveport/Bossier”. Their masks are for the medical community and first responders, I believe.

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