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Interview with Tim Mackey

Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? What do you currently do, and how do you spend your time?


T: Oh my god. Well, I’m from L.A. The city of Los Angeles. I grew up on 54th street and Compton Ave. A place called Low Bottoms. I was a very hyper child. I was (born to) a single mother. Abusive. You know she was in her addiction, and I was raised by my grandparents. I grew, you know, kinda tough. At a young age got involved in drugs and gangs. From 12 to 15, I was incarcerated in Boys’ Homes, camps. I got out with a real bad attitude towards life. And you said currently what I’m doing today? Currently, what I’m doing today, I’m in redemption, recovery, repentance. I go to church. I go to school, and I’m also part of the Sims Library and CLI program and writing helps me very much. So Imma continue writing my book. Also, I’m an amputee. I got shot (in) January 2008, and (had to) amputate my leg. So much pain. Now I’m currently trying to walk again. So basically live life. Be positive.


Could you tell us a bit about what brought you to the library? How did you come to learn about the library?


T: What happened was I forgot exactly what date -- it was during the pandemic. I’m just browsing (online) and I saw this Sims Library. So you know I grabbed my keys, my wallet, my cell phone, and now you got to wear your mask you know. I was still in between my leg, so I grabbed my cane and I came down here. It was amazing. She [Sims Librarian] told me about the program. I’m like “oh my god,” so I joined the Sims Library.


How would you talk about your experience with the program?


T: You know what I like about the program? It’s ongoing. And what I mean by that is I’m so frustrated (with) I call it academic people -- that (they) take a class with no purpose. Here I’m constantly doing something. Constantly think-tanking. It’s like playing sports. When you win a game, you still got to go to the next game. I’m in workshops, poetry lounges, I’ve been to events from Skidrow to my college. (In college), you go to this little workshop in class -- no purpose. Are we doing a book? Are we doing an album, a CD, a something? I’m constantly getting emails (from CLI) during the pandemic. It’s constant. Even this right here. So I like it and I still gotta do editing and writing and put more poems in my book. So my book is never done. And when that get done I want to do another book. So it’s like a constant, like sports, you know. Once you have a baby, still your baby. 100 years old, still your baby. (laughs) So it’s life. That’s what I love about the program. It’s an ongoing life program.


You mentioned your book, and I know you said it’s never finished because you’re always working on it but could you tell me about your book? What’s the title?


T: It’s called Wake Up. It’s about writing my life experiences through art by redemption, recovery; from gang banging, drug dealing, and drug use to my spiritual beliefs to recovery to even right now today and what I’m going through. When I say it’s constant, I want to add more poems to it, so it’s constantly building. Basically like I said once I get, pray to god, World Stage, so I can sign a contract and get it rolling. Have it take off. And from there, once I do that, I want to have another baby. (laughs)


Do you have a favorite poem in the book (manuscript)?


T: You know what I would say my signature poem is called “Lamp Champ.” It’s about me opening my eyes, and you know that’s one of my favorite poems. Then also “Ex-clan Member,” my last poem about my rebirth. So that’s about it. You know it’s about redemption, recovery, penance. About you know making a change. Revolution. Making a better change. What you see today? I’m making a better change in my life.


Now, this is gonna take you a little bit back. So pre-book (manuscript). How did you start writing? What got you into writing?


T: Ooh-sah. Many moons ago, back in 1982, I was in the birth of rap, well the birth of rap to me, -- HipHop. I was in boys' homes and camps. Basically jail. Incarceration. And I started writing raps. Gang banging raps, hood raps you might say. I started writing a little bit. Wasn’t completely writing. Like shorthand. And then you memorize it and go to the yard or go be in your bunk and rap about it. So you know it’s still, it’s the yin and yang. It is what it is. You know gangbanging rap. You know about women, about gangs, drugs. That’s when I first started writing.


How did you transition from those raps to the poems you write now?


T: Well really it’s kind of the same thing. But like I said, one of my goals at one time in 1995 when I got out of penitentiary was to be with Death Row Records. I was familiar with some of my homeboys. I wrote some raps. The transition I would say happened after I got shot. I came to meet Amde Hamilton from the Watts Prophets and the first cover was gonna be an album. A collaboration with me and Yoyo Cam and some peace, right? And then I met Food for Thought and his beautiful wife, Socks, and from there I was with Vibrations, World Stage, and they say “you a poet,” and I say “well damn, I am a poet.”


I still rap but you know it’s similar (to poetry), but you know it’s a little bit different -- writing a book. I can definitely perform of course, because I’m a performing artist. So now these people I met were the ones who convinced me. And then I met Shirley Thompson(confirm). Shirl, she helped me format my book, and thanks to Sims Library and CLI program, I got a book. And now, pray to god, I’m with World Stage. My baby’s getting bigger and still growing.


Can you speak about, I know you already mentioned redemption, can you speak about what motivates you to write?


T: Wow, what motivates me to write now? It keeps me focused. It keeps me out of my thinking. When I wake up in the morning, I pray to god my higher power, however you want to say it, spiritual being, pray to myself, put my green tea, right? My incense, pray, do a little writing, a little scribbling like I’m in the jailhouse. But also too I work out to Tupac, you know that still pumps me up… so I say I’mma make it here, (I’m) determined. So writing helps me think of the bigger picture. And it just keeps me out of negative thoughts. Prevents me from doing violence, or doing violence to myself, or using drugs, or abusing myself. Keeps me focused.


What do you see yourself doing in the future?


T: (In) the future, (I) pray to god I walk again. Lose some weight. Be in some relationship with some female, building our little life. Hopefully. And you know. Hope she a poet and an artist and a rapper also. And we have little artist babies and all that. They teach us, we teach them. And be a teacher and student of life. And grow together. That’s my life goal.


Has the pandemic affected you? If so, how?


T: Well you know I would say this, it’s funny. When the pandemic first happened I was really in a blaze stage. What I mean by that is I wasn’t really tripping. I was between housing. I was couch surfing, but I was comfortable. And what happened was, it’s so funny what happened, someone said, “oh, stock up on your water and toilet paper.” Then from there, it tripped me out, but I got more spiritually inclined to why I’m existing, my life, my family, whatever. So I’m like wow, it gets me more focused on being spiritual within myself. Because I'm thinking it’s a bunch of b.s. My belief is you can’t govern that. You can’t control that. But you can govern yourself. So I got more spiritually inclined about life. More focused.


Would you say it had any effect on your writing?


T: Oh yeah most definitely. I got a poem called “Mexican Beer.” I was, “the world’s in fear / I wish it could go back to a Mexican beer / Corona.” Now Corona’s what? But I’m just joking with you. Yes, it affected my writing. Most definitely. Gave me more poems to write about. More to vent about. More to clown about. Even like when my friend said “(save up on) water,” I’m thinking they called PCP Angel does water also. So I’m thinking what are you talking about, dude? Are you high? What you mean save up on your water? People are fighting over toilet paper. I’m like jesus christ. You got workshops on how to wash your hands. My grandmother should’a got a Ph.D. in that. So it’s like it gave me more creative writing… the world’s going bananas. Thank god I'm not high. The world’s a twilight zone. We’re in a bad twilight zone movie. You know curfew, your water/ your toilet paper. People fighting over toilet paper. People stocking up on water like it’s a world crisis. I also, I swear if it wasn’t closed, I was gonna buy an energizer. You know the big energizers? Because I’m thinking there’s gonna be blackouts. It’s what I assumed when it first happened. Cuz the water and the toilet paper and the curfews. I thought let me get a big energizer. Because everything was closed, I did buy one of them big lights. Mountain lights. So that’s about it.


What’s something you’d like people to know about you?

T: That I’m a caregiving person. I do have feelings. And you know, I’m a teacher/student for life. I will listen. And that’s it.



If you could share one piece of advice with young Tim what would it be?

T: Young Tim I’d give him a hug. I’d say little Timmy, believe in yourself. If no one else loves you, love yourself. It’s gonna be alright.


What does a day in the life of Tim look like?


T: I wake up. Thank the higher power that I’m still living. I spend about 5 minutes, maybe longer. Get up, put (on) my incense, green tea. If it’s workout day, do my little workout. Do my little wheelchair squats. Go on the internet. Do a little writing. Clean up a little bit. And head full of positivity. Go to my recovery meeting. Do a little writing.