Maxine Crump remembers, as a child, eyeing the banner hanging high on Main Street in her hometown of Maringouin. It was advertising the Labor Day festival, and she wanted to go but never did. The festival was for whites-only.
Now, decades later, Crump works to bridge the racial divide that persists in Baton Rouge.
“Discrimination is still happening,” she says, “but it isn’t always intentional.”
In 2011 Crump helped form Dialogue on Race Louisiana, a nonprofit aimed at eliminating racism through discussion and education. Crump facilitates the group’s six-session, once-a-week series. All are invited, and the sessions are free.
“People have an image of this city being racially divided. That’s not an image that Baton Rouge wants to promote,” she says. “The non-conversation, the non-talking about race has gone on for about 40 or 50 years. I think that’s a huge weakness we’re facing now. I hope people start talking about it in an honest way because if they know different, then they do different.”
Crump knows different. As the first black woman to reside in a dorm at LSU in 1964, she knows the racial divide, no matter how big or small it may be, can be eradicated. She says she is motivated by her father, who during the Jim Crow–era owned land and raised seven children to stand up for their rights.
Her father’s resilience in the face of adversity continues to encourage Crump. She watched her father spend much of his life trying to protect his family from a faulty system in his own country. Today, Crump works tirelessly to eliminate lingering traces of that system. She aims to pass on her own convictions and resilience to the Baton Rouge community for the betterment of all.
“I just feel like it’s my turn to do what I can,” Crump says. “I don’t mind that being my life work.”
To sign up for a 2014 dialogue, email [email protected].