At 16, Thurston Williams dreams of becoming a famous dancer. A junior at the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts, he practices five hours a day, getting ready for the big break he's sure will come.
His favorite dance step is the "Pop," a spasmodic, rhythmic body movement that resembles the "Robot Dance" of the late '70s and is popular among D.C. teen-agers. The dance is usually performed in a costume that includes mod "New Wave" sunglasses, white gloves and soft shoes.
When he's not dancing, Williams plays basketball. He said he's a better dancer than a basketball player.
Williams, whose parents were separated when he was 9 years old, lives with his mother, Catherine Williams, and his five sisters in a two-bedroom apartment in the 400 block of Chaplin Street SE. His mother is a seamstress.
"Growing up in D.C. has meant a lot of adjusting. I have to adjust to not having a lot of money and not getting a quality education because the D.C. schools don't get enough supplies and the teachers aren't paid enough money."
But the tall and lanky Williams said, "I'm proud of living in D.C. because it's the nation's capital. I find it exciting living in the city with the White House and the Capitol. I haven't been in the White House, but I've been around it."
Williams said of life in D.C.: "It seems like it's constantly moving. Stuff is happening every day."
But whether he can deal with what's happening is a question that puzzles him. "I don't think I'm emotionally prepared to deal with life. I'm always sitting back and wondering what's going to happen. There's so much crime that just walking down the street at night, I might get killed. Crime is taking the city down.
"D.C. isn't a good place to grow up anymore," he said. "There's a lot of drug abuse. A lot of children get pulled to drugs, like marijuana, LSD, cocaine. Where do kids get the money to buy drugs? I guess that's where the crime comes in. They steal to get cash. Some of them do have money; they have jobs. Some of their parents give them money. Some of the parents use drugs. Some of the parents don't care."
As a resident of Southeast, Williams said, he must deal with pressures from both outside and inside his community. "Since I live in Southeast, people expect me to be rowdy and whatnot. And if you don't hang out with a certain group of fellas, they start messing with you." On several occasions, he recalled, firecrackers have been set off outside his living room windows. He said he thinks it was done because he does not hang out with any particular group.