For the past eight years, Maxine Crump has worked with her nonprofit Dialogue on Race Louisiana to try to end racism in Louisiana by creating conversation.
Dialogue on Race Louisiana hosts events that encourage discussion about racism. Through conversation, Crup and other panelists guide event participants into unpacking myths and misunderstandings about race.
Now, in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody, interest in her organization’s events has quadrupled, Crump estimates. All of the upcoming sessions through July are filled.
She says that while there are differences between the protests this summer and the protests following Alton Sterling’s death, they are connected. After the events in 2016, she saw an increase in awareness and communication about ongoing racism in Baton Rouge but that since Floyd’s death in May, a more diverse group of people are interested in her nonprofit.
She tries to keep the groups small, around 15 people, to allow room for everyone to be heard. People have a lot to unpack when it comes to discussing race, Crump says.
“As I learned through my TV career, the most powerful tool in a conversation is the questions, questions that will make people think,” the former journalist says. “Racism has been an institutional aspect of society since its founding. An accurate history and a lot of truth-telling is needed to stop the denial.”
Crump launched Dialogue on Race Louisiana in 2012. She credits her upbringing in Maringouin as a part of her inspiration.
“Living in a small, racially segregated town gives the clearest contrast to what is possible in America—and who can’t have it,” Crump told Business Report. “I saw my parents and many people like them work as hard as they could to prepare us to have all that was American, and yet as I followed the path they did I saw the race barriers were still there, deeply entrenched in our society—and worst of all, not very visible to most people. I decided the education was necessary.”
“When people understand it, they feel empowered, and if they can see it, they can affect change,” Crump says. about the sessions. “I don’t ask people to change the world—just to the institutions they’re a part of.”
She doesn’t ask anyone to do anything she hasn’t done herself.
Crump was the first black student to live in a woman’s dormitory at LSU, and after graduation, she became the first black reporter for WAFB-TV.
Later, while working at a chemical plant, she fought to overturn a rule mandating female employees wear dresses so she other women at the plant could wear trousers. She started a petition at a broadcast station to make smoking only allowed in the break room.
Although women her age may be winding down—or retired altogether—Crump has no intention of quitting her work anytime soon. Some of her retired friends, she says, look a little “unenergized.” Crump says that continuing her work with Dialogue on Race Louisiana and writing keep her energized.
“Creative writing is part of this conversation,” she says. “This is not a stationary conversation; this has a dynamic to it because dialogue has to be active and alive. Working with facilitators, I constantly have to use my inspiration and creativity all for the purpose of change that will benefit everyone … We have to look at racism, and no matter the cost, we have to end it.”