As told by ejax27, known as The Reclamation Project:
December 9th, 1980 was when my story began. My first week on this planet would be the first time they would tell me my body would be my limitation. Before Christmas that year, I’d have surgery to take apart my legs for what would be the first of many surgeries on the body that they wanted to tell me had betrayed me before I’d even know what it meant and, at the time, too young to understand what was ahead. The blood that flowed through my veins from my father was the DNA that would genetically shape my future as a human being.
I was born with Trismus Pseudocamptodactyly Syndrome. I had severely limited range of motion in my legs, arms and face; still do. The surgeries were far from routine on a disease as rare as mine, and the recoveries were a constant reminder of one step forward, two steps back. Growing up, I’d spend what seemed like a lifetime in a hospital bed, but those days & nights paled in comparison to the prison I felt I lived in physically my entire life.
As an adolescent kid, I grew up loving sports, watching them and playing them, but I was forever picked last, told to sit out, excused from PE in 6th grade because the teacher “knew I couldn’t shoot a basketball." That would be the first time I remember that I’d teach myself to adapt to do something out of spite. At school, they’d call me “Wicked fingers” they’d bring certain foods to class that they knew I’d have difficulty eating and make me eat them, I’d laugh with them as I tried. At home, I’d cry. I’d cry, and I’d cry, and I’d cry growing up, wondering what it was like to throw a baseball like everyone else, bite into an ice cream sandwich or high five someone. My disease, my body, never let me do any of those things.
By 19 years old, I’d grown tired of the tears, the self-doubt, the reflection in the mirror as a daily reminder of the vessel that was my enemy, my prison, and I set out to reclaim it. I got my 1st tattoo, a dragon on my back (since covered by a much larger dragon back piece). The dragon was a symbol of protection. A reminder in the mirror that someone always had my back. I’d go on to get a cross with the words “Only the strong survive”, a tattoo that emulated a human being I identified with, a brash, unapologetic, not-supposed-to-be-this-good-at-basketball warrior named Allen Iverson.
Over the next 15 years, I’d acquire many more tattoos, the word “Family” with each of my brother & sisters names in a letter. A rose for each of my sisters, a heart & swallow for my momma and my step-mom. A crown for my pops. A skull for equality, a snake for temptation, a tall ship for direction among others. Tattooing was my therapy. I’ve spent countless hours with my homeboy & tattoo artist, Jeremy Riley, listening to music, talking through things and getting tattooed. Working through my own self-doubt and reclaiming the image of a body they tried to tell me was my limitation. Today, it inspires me. Today, it reminds me of who and what I stand for when the doubt creeps in at weak points. No longer a limitation or burden, my body is a reclamation project, of pride, of dignity, of character.