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James Wood and Lakeith Crawford

Finding their Way

The paths people forge in life are determined by a series of choices. One bad choice and your life can take a serious turn for the worst, but on the other hand, the right decisions can lead you to a life filled with overwhelming happiness and fulfillment.

Cousins James Wood and Lakeith Crawford grew up in Binghampton, a neighborhood at the convergence of Midtown and North Memphis. Although Binghampton has had its challenges of negative influences , these influences were outweighed by the great village of mentors that made up the community.

While growing up, James and LaKeith were surrounded by those negative influences but were fortunate enough to find mentorship and purpose at the Lester Community Center. The Lester Community Center, on the corner of Tillman and Hale, provided a safe place for the children in the neighborhood. When James and Lakeith were growing up, the gangs in the community respected the boundaries of Lester Community Center. The center did not allow too much distraction or illicit activity to occur on the grounds, while the young kids in the neighborhood used the park.

On Saturdays, the doors to the gym would open, and young men from the neighborhood would pour in, team up and play 5 on 5 until the gym closed. The Lester Community Center pool was the largest community pool in the city of Memphis. The Community Center would even host night parties in the summertime and during the day the pool was often overcrowded with kids wanting to beat the heat.

James and Lakeith reminisced about their favorite summers and even days when they didn’t even have seventy-five cents to get into the pool. On those days, the cousins and other kids from the projects they lived in would walk over to Lester and jump the fence for a night of swimming. “We knew it was wrong,” said James, “but it was fun.”

Without the support and positive influences of those around them, James and LaKeith’s lives would have turned out quite different. “I would have to go visit my uncles and cousins in jail,” said James. This was not a fun occurrence for James. Those visits turned him away from the type of lifestyle that would lead him to jail.

Just like James, Lakeith also knew that life could be better for him. He was fortunate enough to be a student-athlete in college and earn his way out of Binghampton, and he uses his blessings to teach others to never “think you have done so much wrong that you can’t get it all right.”

James and Lakeith were lucky enough to go off to college and start respectful careers. Now they give back to their community as much as possible and provide guidance to whoever they cross paths with in the community.



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