Award reflects Crawford’s commitmentWhen Carl Crawford of Duluth looks back on his days growing up in Los Angeles, he says he remembers the men who were role models for him. Because they helped him become the person he is today, Crawford decided to dedicate much of his own time toward mentoring and guiding young people.
When Carl Crawford of Duluth looks back on his days growing up in Los Angeles, he says he remembers the men who were role models for him. Because they helped him become the person he is today, Crawford decided to dedicate much of his own time toward mentoring and guiding young people.
“I understand humanity and understand what it means to be a man in the world and to move forward,” Crawford said. “It’s really about people and understanding that we are all linked together on this journey.”
Crawford instills this view of social justice and equality in the lives of students and adults through his work in organizations such as Men as Peacemakers, Community Action Duluth and SOAR, as well as at his fulltime job as coordinator of Lake Superior College’s Intercultural Center. He says he strives to bring the community together to create social equality — reflective of the dream embraced by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
“We’ve never really seen a true, beloved community like Dr. King talked about,” said Crawford, who on the King holiday received the Drum Major for Peace Award from the Duluth Chapter of the NAACP.
But, he added more optimistically, “We can change our community at our dinner tables and at work by treating people with respect. That’s something anybody can do.”
Crawford has been LSC’s Intercultural Center coordinator for nearly five years, allowing him to focus much of his work on the education aspect of social justice. He helps run the center and organize activities for students to understand cultures other than their own.
“You should be changed through the education process, and part of that is understanding how stereotypes and biases affect your view of the world,” he said.
“My biggest goal is to close the achievement gap for all students and to build and work toward a community of understanding,” Crawford said of the disparity in academic performance between white students and students of color. He continued that both within and outside the academic environment “There are still places in this area that people feel unsafe and uncomfortable. We need to challenge the whole concept of ‘Minnesota nice.’”
Aside from his work at the college, Crawford is involved in several community organizations and nonprofit groups. Frank Jewell, who was executive director of Men as Peacemakers for 11 years, said Crawford plays a significant role in the organization’s mission to mentor children and young adults.
“He just has this great positive energy,” Jewell said. “He always shows up, and he always helps out. He is someone that you can count on.”
As previous chairman for the organization’s board of directors, Crawford helped develop many of its programs, including the Champions Initiative that focuses on getting children involved in athletics.
Crawford previously spent nine years on the Woodland Hills board of directors and is the immediate past president of the African American Men’s Group of Duluth. He serves on the board of directors for the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, Community Action Duluth, SOAR and the Ordean Foundation.
Crawford also played a role in establishing the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial in Duluth, and he is currently on the board of directors that oversees the memorial and its ongoing educational programs.
Leaving his native Los Angeles, Crawford played basketball at a junior college in Arizona before coming to Duluth on a scholarship at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He received his bachelor’s degree in physical education from UWS in 1986, with psychology as a minor area of study.
Using his background in athletics, Crawford volunteers his time as an assistant basketball coach for the Boys & Girls Club of Duluth. He was also involved with the Race 4 Center Court program that brought children from diverse backgrounds together by teaching them basketball skills.
Still, despite all those activities, Crawford says the Drum Major for Peace Award was unexpected and a bit overwhelming.
“Of course, with what Dr. King meant in my life and in many others, it’s a shock and honor that your community sees you as someone working toward peace,” Crawford said. “I think the biggest influence is to understand that we all bring something to the table.”
The late Reverend Arthur Foy of St. Mark’s A.M.E. Church in Duluth started the Drum Major for Peace Award to honor those in the community who live up to the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., said Doug Bowen-Bailey, a member of Duluth’s MLK Celebration committee which organizes the day’s events and administers the award.
“One of the reasons Carl was selected is because he reaches across all age ranges and really has a positive, ‘can do’ attitude that he brings to the table,” Bowen Bailey said. “He is willing to talk about difficult issues in a positive way.”