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Teens of expression: Tim Douglas

Saturday, August 4, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:07 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 24, 2008
Tim Douglas writes about issues such as race and identity.

COLUMBIA-Tim Douglas, 18 and a recent graduate of Hickman High School, does not write for a grade. He writes for himself. Tim writes the way he speaks: boldly and to the point. He often talks about race and identity, even when it gets personal and uncomfortable.

The son of a white mother and a black father, he finds it hard to identify with a part of black culture, specifically what he calls the “thug” lifestyle. He blames the media and its presentation of what it means to be black, and he blames Niggaz With Attitude, a rap group popular in the late 1980s-early 1990s.

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“Are you ready for this, because you’ll have to pay attention,” he says, leaning forward, dropping his voice. “I blame NWA. Black people have lived in such poverty. People saw Niggaz With Attitude embracing this idea of carrying an AK-47 and just shooting people and all. Then (NWA) got rich and didn’t have to live in poverty any more. People saw that and thought, damn, I can do that. Being a thug is seen as a way out.”

Tim was inspired to write after seeing a panel on CNN.

“I was watching this thing about self-segregation and everybody was arguing and talking a lot about high schools,” he says. “I thought, ‘You know what? I’m in high school, I know about this. I’m going to write about it.’ People self-segregate because being around people of different races is uncomfortable.”

In another essay, Tim tackles how schools deal with troubled kids.

“I suggest that students embrace their own individuality, as opposed to the schools encouraging it,” Tim said. “That way, when they speak to any authority in the schools, they will have self-respect.”

Because the essays are personal, Tim says he often makes generalizations that he feels are justified but that may not be socially acceptable. After all, it’s his personal outlet.

Tim’s 8-inch afro, now tamed into tight braids for his job, is, like much of his life, a throwback to another decade. “If I had a time machine, you wouldn’t need much gas,” says Tim, who recently graduated from Hickman High School. “I would head straight to the ’70s.”

And he’d fit right in. As lead singer and bassist for Thunderclap Douglas and the 8-Track Groove, he surrounds himself with mostly P-funk, a genre defined by the music of George Clinton in the 1970s. Funkadelic and Parliament rank high on his list of favorite bands, along with Jimi Hendrix, Yes and Led Zeppelin.

Performing with Thunderclap Douglas is an important expression for Tim, but he’s playing and singing somebody else’s music.

Tim’s need to write in order to express himself is much more personal: “I write so I can say whatever I feel.”

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