LaTanya Caffe, senior, described the meaning behind her tattoos and fingernails. (Lily Bartin)
LaTanya Caffe, senior, described the meaning behind her tattoos and fingernails.

Lily Bartin

VoK: LaTanya Caffe

February 24, 2020

“My first tattoo I got after I turned 16. It says with pain comes strength. I got it for my cousin after he was hit by a car. He didn’t survive. That was something that really took a toll on our family. Everybody said he was the glue that held us together. And I feel like, with a lot of pain, we became stronger.”

Lily Bartin

LaTanya Caffe's tattoo reads: "My Brothers Keeper."

“Then my second tattoo says, ‘My Brother’s Keeper.’ Me and my brother have a close relationship. I have three brothers, but he’s the only one I talk to. He has a tattoo that says, ‘My Sister’s Protector,’ and it’s actually our thumbprint on each other. So it’s his thumbprint on me and my thumbprint on him. He’s in the Marines now. My dad is in the military, so he’s always wanted to follow in his footsteps. I worry about him in the Marines. Because it’s my mom’s only son, and the only brother I’m close with, I’m always trying to stay connected with him while he’s away.”

Lily Bartin

Caffe's nails commemorating recently deceased basketball player Kobe Bryant.

“My brother and my uncle were always really big Kobe fans. I would say I’ve grown up with [Kobe] as a figure in my life. So the nails are to commemorate him. To say he’s not gone– he’s not replaceable, he’s always with us. He was a successful African American man so it’s one of those things that’s so powerful to see growing up.”

Lily Bartin

LaTanya Caffe's tattoo reads: "With Pain Comes Strength."

“It was 2015 when my cousin died. He was 15 and I was around 12 or 13. It was the first time I had experienced that sort of loss in my life. We all thought he went missing because he wasn’t at school. All of our cousins were going to school together. He walked to school because it wasn’t that far from his house. A car was speeding past and it hit him. The driver had run a red light. I think it was a full day until it was on the news that someone got hit, and we were saying please don’t let that be him. He wasn’t answering his phone, he wasn’t communicating with anyone. That night we found out it was him. We went over to his mama’s house. We didn’t want it to be a sad time, we wanted to remember the good times we had with him.”

“I want to finish this arm with more tattoos. One of my mom and dad, and another one of me and my brother, and one of my sisters. This arm is like my family tree. A lot of my family got tattoos for my cousin when he died. His sister got flowers for him, and my auntie got his face tattooed on her. So tattoos are just one way we express ourselves in our family. And something that our family wants us to know is that when you get a tattoo you make it something that you are going to remember, something you won’t ever regret.”

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