Q+A with 2023 Barton Award Winner: Maxine Crump

Q+A with 2023 Barton Award Winner: Maxine Crump


Maxine Crump was awarded the John W. Barton Sr. Excellence in Non-Profit Management Award at the Foundation’s Annual Meeting in March. We asked her a few questions to learn more about her journey to nonprofit leadership in our community.

Tell us about your organization.

Dialogue on Race Louisiana is the Nonprofit Org that houses the core program, the Dialogue on Race series. The DOR Series uses a structured educational process that is arranged in six session with a facilitated format backed by factual martials. The organization has expanded the Dialogue Series offering from the DOR Original series to the Advanced Series, and the Advanced Beyond Series. DORLA also has other program offerings that all used the structure and format of the series.

This series is unique in that the education comes through all components working together – the structure, format, facilitation and factual martials where the key to the effectiveness of the program is the voices of the participants speaking openly and honestly about race and unpacking the flawed and false narrative that exists in the American society.

How did you start working in the nonprofit sector? Tell us generally about your journey to your current organization.

My journey to the nonprofit world started with my earliest experience of watching the confusion around race in my lifetime including my father’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement to my entering those spaces opening up by civil rights laws and finding that not many people of color were entering them. I wanted to know why, as well as why the society wasn’t doing more to assure that the barriers that existed under the segregation laws were moved. I found that not only were the barriers still there, but most people believed the new law alone meant the barriers were no longer there. We needed to talk about that. As I led the development of what I thought was a much needed conversation about the race construct, I was encouraged to consider that the best place to move the conversation was through the creation of a nonprofit organization to house the DOR Series, which allowed the work to be legally set up and gave confidence to individuals signing up to participant in the dialogue. Nonprofit status especially allowed for raising funds and for the programs to be used by other organization and corporations.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while leading your organization?

The most valuable lesson I learned while leading Dialogue on Race Louisiana was how right it was to start this conversation by using an education process. I had long heard that “education was the key.” I learned it had to be the right key to open a conversation where people’s voices could be heard in a way that could lead to beneficial change. I saw that the key needed to fit the need, the society and be available to anyone who wanted to enter that conversation. I found that people do want to talk about race; they need a way of talking. The Dialogue on Race Series offers a way of talking.

Do you have a favorite quote or guiding mantra?

One guiding mantra is “Talk is Action.” I had long heard people say things like: “What good is talking”, “Talking doesn’t do any good”, or “I am tired of talking” or “we have been talking a long time and where has it got us”? Talking was never the problem; it was the kind of talking that caused those responses.

When you have out of town guests, what do you insist they must see or do before leaving South Louisiana?

When I have out of town guests, I suggest that before they leave, they must go to our local restaurants. They will get to enjoy some of the most delicious, flavorful meals that they might not find anywhere else. I also recommend that they try to find live Baton Rouge Blues.

What inspires/motivates you to keep serving your community?

I grew up with the message: what belongs to me is up to me to take care of it. I took that to include my community. I recognize it is not all I want it to be – like many other things – but it is mine, and I want to see it be a community that is good for me and for others. I need to do what I can to the best of my ability. I saw a need I thought I could fulfill, I offered it, and the community has been responding to this work in a way that shows it serves the community in beneficial ways. What’s great about serving through the work I do is that I like what I do, and I am glad it is a service to the community. It makes me incredibly happy to think about that.

What skill do you consider to be your secret superpower?

My secret superpower is listening to understand the core message of what is being said.

Success rarely happens in a vacuum; who has helped support your work?

It is true that success rarely happens in a vacuum. All the people who have helped support my work and played a role in the success of Dialogue on Race Louisiana are many as everyone knows. I am grateful for all of those whose shoulders I stand on. I can never take them for granted. I am grateful for all of those who engaged directly and indirectly in the development of the DOR Series and those who helped implement it –those who helped establish and build the organization. For all of them I am grateful.

I know for sure I work with a great board of directors. Each of them continually and consistently shows their commitment to the vision and the mission of Dialogue on Race in indisputable ways.

The DORLA staff worked for Dialogue before there was money to pay their salaries and you can imagine how valuable that was. Some of the staff members still volunteer their time with the organization and the amazing thing many people would be surprised to know is that they do it with the same dedication as if they were paid.

The Dialogue on Race Facilitators, for which without their talents and skills the program could not happen. They voluntarily show up for training and willing and happily serve as leaders of the dialogue conversation. The organization for several years no has begun to pay them a stipend for their service. Because of the hybrid opportunities that are becoming commonplace, DORLA representatives are in half a dozen states in the country as well as a couple of other countries.

My friends are a joy because they are friends who stood with me when many others were saying this program would not work simply because people wouldn’t agree to sit in a room with people of diverse ethnicities and talk about an uncomfortable subject like race. These friends believed in me and assured me many times that they believed in me and volunteered to do whatever they could to support me. I am very grateful for having friends like that.

My family members are amazing people. I feel fortunate to have them and sometimes I neglect to let them know how much they mean to me. I will say now, I love you with all my heart. As we lose family members along the way, it becomes increasingly clear to me how much you all mean to me.

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