BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Maxine Crump recently helped host a discussion on racial issues for Against All Odds, a blossoming program to pair mentors with young people already in the criminal justice system or at risk for landing there. Crump tells 9News she doesn't try to tell people what to think, but tries to inspire questions and thought.
Crump tries to stay firm on her message, no matter what others may say. She told the audience that night, "What I'm going to talk about might be different from what I think you've been hearing from other speakers..." Then she began to talk about trying to see things from both sides of the issue.
Maxine has, for 9 years, aligned herself with programs aimed at improving race relations. Years ago she helped the YWCA design a Dialogue on Race series of community meetings, during which, races interacted and sought solutions. She feels issues like diversity, race relations, equal rights are so important, she's made it her life's work now. Crump named her non-profit, Dialogue on Race Louisiana. It's in an office on Jefferson Highway. After two years, her company is in-demand because of recent police violence, white on black violence.
The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri and the choking death of Eric Garner in New York, all fueled outrage among blacks and whites…there were riots in some places, demonstrations in others, prayer meetings, t-shirts, hashtags, selfies… It is easy to see that people are ready to talk about racism.
Crump says, "They're very responsive to it right now. Far more than they used to be. Used to say there was no need for it. But they're not saying it now at all."
Maxine's civil rights activism tracks all the way back to college days. To find her, you can dig in the LSU Library archives. Drag out an old Gumbo LSU Yearbook from back in the 1960s. The one 9News found was in 1965, her sophomore year. Her young face with hair that curls at the shoulder is there among all the white faces. Maxine was the first black student to stay in a female dormitory. She was in Louise Garig hall.
"I couldn't tell whether LSU was protecting me or protecting the other students on campus," she said."When I came and realized I was in a private room, the students, who were white of course, kept saying , 'Gosh, you got a private room, how did you do this?' Also the people who were assigned to that dorm they were students from California and New York, and places where they were used to desegregated areas."
Crump said her father had always been active in Pointe Coupee voter registration drives. He had worked in various jobs, but eventually saved enough money to buy his own bus and became a bus driver. Everyone knew her dad.
Maxine as a graduating high school senior had watched the news coverage for Freedom Summer, In 1964, college students from all over t he country had traveled to Mississippi to encourage blacks to register to vote, and set up schools for children who had no school. There had been violence. Three Freedom Summer workers turned up buried near a pond, victims of murder.
Crump said, she saw an opportunity with LSU. "I came here because it was Freedom Summer and I had watched all the things that had happened in Mississippi," she said. "I'd watched all the voter rights fight, and everything and I really wasn't old enough to be involved in it. But my father was involved in voter registration drives and things like that. And when he asked me if I wanted to go to LSU,it was like "Yes!" It was a way I could be involved, I can be a part of this!"
Crump would encounter race issues again as she first worked in Baton Rouge radio, then at WAFB Newsline 9. In fact, in 1989, she was the reporter for a case when the the St. Helena School Board had fired the first black superintendent Perry Spears. They had replaced him with a white superintendent. Working at WAFB, Maxine Crump was once again helping to blaze a trail as one of the station's first black reporters.
She said that training as a reporter insures she's concise in her Dialogues on Race discussions. She said in some ways it relates to newscasts, because you ask people to discuss, prepare points on which they agree, then present them clearly. "Things have to make sense to people," she said, "and it has to be put in a way that everyone can understand it."
Walking on LSU's campus in front of the student union, Donna Britt asked Crump what she thinks will come of racism in the hands of the next generation.
Crump places a lot of faith in the compassion and smarts of today's 20-somethings.."You may have a great friend, and you may like everybody of color, but if theyn't (sic) access, then you have to ask yourself, then what's in our system that's causing this problem. So I want them to know the problem is, how it operates and then I think, because students are very bright, especially these days, they'll know what to do."