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Following the Currents that Guide Florida's Future
Should Florida A&M University terminate its Marching 100 band if it can’t control its brutal hazing?
Frank Bentayou
Robert Champion, drum major for FAMU’s highly regarded band, died in last fall after fellow musicians pummeled and paddled him until he collapsed. Two weeks later, the parents of Bria Shante announced that their 18-year-old daughter, also a band member, had suffered a broken leg even before Champion’s death, her injuries from a similar ritual beating. On Jan. 2, the university’s board approved a scholarship in memory of Champion and a plan for a panel to recommend ways to stop hazing at the school. A clergyman, a TV commentator, a scholar and a police chief comment on whether that’s enough action and what the school, the university system and law enforcement can do to combat A&M’s history of violent hazing.
Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr.

These recent hazing events in Florida are not isolated incidents. Hazing is a serious problem and challenge across black culture, across the college and sports cultures and across the United States.The FAMU incident is a tremendous tragedy. But, remember. There have been other incidents of hazing that have resulted in death. This one is not the only one.

Hazing certainly is a problem we have to address. First, it is illegal. FAMU did the right thing in suspending the band. And now stakeholders need to come together and say to students and others that this is a type of behavior we won’t permit in our institutions. I was on the board there, and I know that during my years, we had zero tolerance for hazing. In that regard, the suspension of the band was a good decision. Any hazing requires that we deal with it as soon as we hear it occurs.

Later, once the healing has taken place -- and no one can put a time limit on that -- the band, which is such a significant part of the whole institution, should be restored to its proper status. I hope and pray that that will happen soon, that the band members and fraternity and sorority members and others will come to understand that what happened can’t occur again.

Meanwhile, I am helping to put together a national task force on hazing. Sponsoring it will be the 200 black-owned newspapers owners in the country. Others involved are the National Save the Family Now Movement and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-violent Social Change as well as a coalition of the presidents of historically black U.S. colleges and universities and black clergy from around the country.

We think it is essential to come together to start a national conversation. We’re planning a national press conference at 2 p.m. on January 17 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. We’ll bring together these stakeholders and talk from a holistic point of view about the issue of hazing.

Included will be psychologists, pastors, student leaders and leaders of the Greek-letter organizations on campuses, all there to raise our voices positively and practically to find a way to stop this destructive behavior. Now is the time to say to our community and all communities that hazing is unacceptable.

We cannot allow Robert Champion’s death to be in vain. We must start a positive conversation, young and old alike. This may be a springboard to move us along toward positive change.

Ricky L. Jones
Let's cut to the chase. Everybody at that school, from the band director to the students to the administrators all the way to the president, knows that this is a practice that goes on in these bands. It also goes on in black Greek-letter organizations, which the bands are mimicking. 
When they say they don't know about hazing activities, they're either lying or they should be fired for negligence. This is going on throughout the South in historically black colleges and universities. It's going on in predominantly white universities where there are black Greek-letter organizations. Clearly the policies (to restrict hazing) do not work. And you're having people injured throughout the country, and you're having people killed. 
And so what the bands, what other organizations are really saying to these schools and these administrators is: This is the way we do things. This is the way we've always done things. And this is the way we're going to continue to do things. 
And so as an administrator or even an elected official in a state that's concerned about this the question is what are you going to do with these organizations once you take that into account? Already, hazing is a felony in the state of Florida. 
I have some of my fraternity brothers at this very same school go to jail a few years ago because of hazing. It cannot be stopped. So the next question is, when are university officials and legal officials going to take steps to disband these organizations across the board? There is no other option. 
I'm saying we cannot let emotion get in the way of the facts, and the facts are that nobody has been able to stop this behavior to date. So if we want to save black lives in these organizations and other lives, we get rid of these organizations.
Roland S. Martin
I'm a graduate of Texas A&M University. Two years ago two members of our Texas A&M core cadets were charged for hazing. In 1984, a core cadet actually died going through some exercises. Hazing is about culture. It is about institutions where you largely have young folks who are in control of these institutions.
You also have alumni members, graduate members who have a belief that if you want to go through what I went through, I have a greater appreciation of you as a member. So if you don't go through it, then I don't regard you in the same way. So that kind of peer pressure is applied.
You can have all the rules in place, but but you have to have peers who are saying, I cannot allow this because you're not going to tarnish our reputation and put us in jeopardy by your actions. And you clearly have to have state laws where people understand that you can go to jail if you're engaged in this behavior. But most importantly, you have to have individuals who say we're not going to allow this culture to go forward. 
When I pledged in spring of 1989, Alpha Phi Alpha, I made it clear to my brothers that I'm not getting beat by somebody. It's not going to happen. But here's what was interesting. When I went to my national convention that summer, and we talked about hazing, I had some brothers in the chapter who said, hey, man, don't tell anybody you didn't get hazed or you didn't get any wood -- which means paddling. 
And I said wait a minute, if we pledged me in the right way, why should we not say it? You have to have people in bands, in fraternities, in sororities looking at somebody else and saying, you might be my brother or my sister or a band member, but you're not going to do that. You're not going to jeopardize us by your actions. 
That's what is required. And we need young people coming into these bands saying, I'm not taking a beating simply because I want to play an instrument. I went through this with folks who said you have to get beat because you're in the band. I said no, I'm not. It's not going to happen.
Dennis Michael Jones
On November 08, 2011, The Tallahassee Police Department responded to FAMU campus for a report of a battery. The victim, identified as Bria Hunter, had initially reported the case to FAMU Police Department but it was determined the incident occurred within TPD’s jurisdiction.
Further investigation by the Criminal Investigation Unit determined the incident to be hazing. On December 12, the Tallahassee Police Department obtained warrants and subsequently arrested the following individuals in connection to the case:
Sean Hobson, black male, date of birth, 10/01/’88. Charges: one count hazing and one count felony battery.
Aaron Golson, black male, date of birth, 06/28/’92. Charges: one count hazing and one count felony battery.
James Harris, black male, date of birth, 05/08/’89. Charges: one count hazing.
All were taken to Leon County Jail for processing.
We are not commenting any further on the cases.

by Dr. Radut.