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The 2019 cohort of the Youth Reporting Institute and their work.

Making Any Place Home: Crawford Edition

Da'Mon Crawford-James
The Crawford-James family: Da'Mon (left), Shemeka (center), and Da'Shaun (right).

My mom, Shekema Crawford, is really good at moving. She knows exactly what to do with everything. She knows what to keep and what to get rid of.

My mother always says: “One of the things that I have done in my own brain is if I have not used any of it [by the] time we leave, I just go ahead and throw it away. Because if I have not used it in two years, that means I didn’t miss it. And that I didn’t need it. So there’s no point of bringing it if I’m not going to use it.”

My mother, brother and I have moved five times since we got to Durham in 2008. Before coming to Durham, we lived in Missouri for a year because my father, Davell, was in the military. After he was restationed, we lived in Georgia for about two years. Due to issues between my mom and my dad and the domestic violence that was occurring in the house, we were homeless for a little while before we moved in with one of my mom’s friends. It was packed. Imagine living with six people in a three-bedroom apartment. My mom moved us to Fayetteville and we stayed with our grandparents for a year before moving back to Durham.

Home is safety, comfort, love. Even though we've had to move on several different occasions ... it was always considered to be a loving home. -Shekema Crawford

Due to moving so many times, my mom has a definition of home that has stuck with me. She says: “Home is safety, comfort, love. Even though we’ve had to move on several different occasions, I feel that no matter where we moved to, it was always considered to be safe, it was always considered to be a loving home.”

At the moment, we are living in a three-story townhouse, and we originally had a plan to stay there until my brother graduated from high school. Unfortunately, we had neighbors come in and we no longer feel safe there, so it’s time for us to move again.

My mother says we are moving later this summer because she feels the next-door neighbors have been involved in some drug activity and she hasn’t felt safe.

“And there's been times whenever my boys and I had to actually walk outside and they were smelling weed,” she said. “We've had people looking inside the window. We had somebody knock on my door asking for ole boy. A lot of transactions. A lot of traffic. So it's time to move.”

Moving Is A Different Experience For Each Of Us

In the Crawford-James household, we all have a different way of packing, and for my brother, Da’Shaun James, it is harder for him to get rid of things. My mother has to reprimand him for doing so, but that also means for him to wait until the last minute and grabbing the most important thing to him.

My brother has the same routine every time he packs.

“The first thing I do is pack my game system right there,” he said. “Okay, so pack that up. So I know didn’t forget anything because I always feel like I am leaving something for my game system.”

My mom is the exact opposite of Da’Shaun. She starts packing way in advance and has it down to a science.

“I’ll pack like the kitchen utensils and pots and pans, any videos and things like that, that I’m actually able to pack up. And then like the clothes and the shoes in the closet. I usually put those in the car and drive those over to the new place.”
“These wolverine, spider-man cups will probably go. These will go because they are cracking and getting old. My son will be upset but this cowboys cup will be going away. Where is the ravens ... You know what? I might have thrown that out already.”

My mother does a lot of the packing and cleaning up and it’s easy for me and her to get rid of things but my brother on the other hand it’s harder for him to get rid of things he does not need. He’s kept shoes and outfits he can’t wear and my mother would have to reprimand him for doing that and it causes frustration during the clean up every single time. It has most definitely gotten better over time

The new place that we have moved to is further across town and is further from our schools, Early College High School and Hillside New Tech. My mom says it’s hard to find a place that fits our budget. She also says that we pay $1,350 in rent which recently increased to $1,400. Our new rent will be $1,600. According to Zillow, the median/average rent for a place that would fit our family is $1,613.

“One of the things that I look for is safety. I look and see if it’s going to be a good fit for my family," my mom said. "And I look at the price ... look at the location, and [make] sure that is somewhere where bus transportation for the schools can be provided for both of my children.”

When it comes to moving it has always been a family affair and we can always rely on our grandparents to be there to help us move. In fact, they will be at the new house before us.

Credit Da'Mon Crawford-James / WUNC
Sheneka Crawford

My mother said, “My mom, she's always been the organizer. So she'll let me know what she feels like needs to be careful on what doesn't. And she'll let me know where she wants to put everything. I'll take down the flowers and boss those up and then she'll let me know she wants to move them somewhere else.”

She adds that her dad "has put up TVs and do all he can and make sure that he likes everything and everything is hooked up, right and we’ll take it from their.”

After we get set up, my grandfather says he’s grilling by the pool at the complex. My aunt and her two children will be there. That will be Saturday. Sunday, we usually go to church, but I think that we will miss it. We will be tired from moving from one house to the other.

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