The FAMU, Florida A&M University’s band, performed for the first time today since the death, caused by hazing, of a drummer nearly two years ago.
The Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium was the venue for the band’s first appearance in 22 months, entering before their school’s preliminary game against Mississippi Valley State.
FAMU’s renowned Marching 100 was stopped in its tracks after drum major, Robert Champion, died following hazing rituals he underwent on a parked bus back in the winter of 2011.
The death of the drummer was a huge shock, not just to his family but to people around the world. Something which was supposed to be a bit of harmful fun turned fatal with the loss of a young man’s life.
As a result of the FAMU hazing death, the band have not performed together until now. After the incident, James Ammons, the university’s president, resigned from his position.
Famu’s interim president, Larry Robinson, announced the return of the band at a news conference in July. He spoke about the fact that a new code of conduct for students had been implemented, as well as several other measures, to counter and eliminate the culture of hazing. Robinson said:
“This band will be a model of excellence for other bands across this nation. It will actually focus on its founding principles of character, academics, leadership, marching and service. When you look at all these actions that we’ve taken in total, we are fairly confident that we are about to launch a new era and a new understanding and appreciation as to why hazing is not necessary to advance these principles.”
Pam and Robert Champion said in a phone interview with the AP: ” (We) do believe that it’s too soon. I don’t see anything that’s different to ensure the safety of those students. Everything that has been put in place is not something that was done voluntarily,” expressing their opinion that the band should not be reinstated.
Pam Champion continued in the interview, speaking about the message that should be sent to wannabe hazers: “What I would say is what I’ve said all along. There is an opportunity to send a strong message, and it’s the only thing that will be a deterrent. So far that message has not been sent to eradicate hazing all together.”
Over a dozen former band members were charged with manslaughter for the FAMU hazing that resulted in the death of their band-mate. Seven of the accused have accepted pleas while the remainder still await trial.