BATON ROUGE, LA (LOCAL33) (FOX44) – Maxine Crump is the President and CEO of the Dialogue on Race Louisiana.
For some, it’s a touchy subject to talk about, but for Maxine Crump it’s a conversation that’s become a major part of her life.
“The conversation that has been around that is that white people are this way and black people are that, and what was left out
was what is the core of this friction? And I thought if we don’t talk about that then we are not going to be able to solve the problem.”
It’s a conversation she’s been having with herself since she was a child.
“From the time that I was 5 or 6, I remember asking my father what is this division. My words were ‘why don’t white people speak to black people’. I could see he struggled to give the right words, so he said white people have been lead to believe they are superior, but that is not true. Our constitution
does not support ranks. And I looked at him and said, so I’m American?”
Little did she know that conversation would set the tone for the rest of her life.
“Even though that may not sound like a great lesson, it told me that I’m not only an American, but there was a document that assured I had the right to be here. But I also understood through the movement that my rights were not being activated.”
Growing up in the thick of the civil rights movement, Crump knew she had to speak up if she wanted to be a part of the changes happening around her.
“The context of where I was at the time was like Yes! I’ve been thinking about what I can do anyway, so when he said do you want to live on campus I said yes! And finding out I was the only one didn’t strike me as odd because around the country there was the first this and the first that happening.”
In 1964 Crump become the first African American woman to stay in a doorm room at LSU.
“I had seen James Meredith beaten, and I had seen water hoses turned on people and I was prepared for all of it. I didn’t prefer it to happen, but
I was willing to do what I needed to do.”
During that same year she also started speaking out for women’s rights.
“The handbook had said women could not wear pants on campus. So we’re sitting around in the doorm and one girl said why can’t we wear pants? And one said what are they going to do if we all wear pants? Now, here I am having broken one barrier and i’m about to do it again, and I thought what would my parents think if I got kicked out of school for this. But I went for it because I felt it was right, and that was the last time we were not allowed to wear pants at LSU.”
After college she became the first black, female radio personality and news anchor in Baton Rouge.
“Some of it was the opportunity of the lack of opportunity in the society that I had broken through because of this early desire to get into the movement in a way, because if those doors are going to be open then I’m going to walk through, and then it’s my turn to do something with that.”
Today she continues to use her voice to share her message on race.
“We tend to talk about race and many of the things we don’t like in society like that’s all we can do. If the people are empowered in this country
we need to know that we have a say in it and stop feeling like a complainer on the sidelines that can’t do anything about it.”
She hopes to inspire others to speak up and use their voice too.
“If people would rather have their pain for not doing anything, I’d rather have my pain for doing something. I’d never change any of the things
that I’ve gone through because really in life you’re going to have pain anyway, so let your pain be for something.”