FAMU Marching Band Performs For the First Time since Hazing Death of Drum Junior (UPDATE)


Florida A&M University (FAMU)'s well-known marching band, 'Marching 100' performed in a football stadium for the first time in nearly 22 months, Sunday after the 2011 hazing death of a 26-year-old drum major, Robert Champion.

The 126-member FAMU band played in Orlando's Citrus Bowl Stadium to begin the school's season-opening football game against Mississippi Valley State.

Champion sustained injuries from fellow members' bullying during a 'Crossing Bus C hazing ritual'. They beat him up on the band's bus that was parked at the Rosen Plaza hotel in Orlando, November 2011. He suffered bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and also had internal bleeding, which eventually led to his death.

The ritual took place soon after the band returned to its hotel from a performance at the annual Florida Classic football game.

Due to this tragic death, the band was suspended for the 2012-13 academic year. Its long-time director Julian White was forced to retire and the university president, James Ammons, was fired from his post.

The university officials lifted the suspension on the band in June.

For most of the spectators, the FAMU band was the main motivation to attend the football games.

"When they took the band away, it was devastating," said Willie Cunningham, 52, a FAMU graduate. "The return of the band is why you see so many people here on a Sunday."

The present FAMU band  now comprises of 70 per cent new members, says Band director Sylvester Young.

"Everything you see and hear was taught to these kids in less than three weeks," Young said. "That includes music, marching style, dance routines, everything."

In August, FAMU's interim president, Larry Robinson, said that the university adopted numerous measures to stop hazing, including a new student code of conduct, new procedures to report and probe hazing, an anti-hazing website and appointing faculty to research hazing among others.

"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," Robinson said. "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."

According to the Washington Times, 15 former band members were charged with manslaughter and felony hazing on Champion's death. So far, seven have negotiated pleas that include probation and community-service-related sentences. Another member has pleaded but hasn't been sentenced, and the rest are still awaiting trial.

Champion's parents, Pam and Robert Champion Sr., said that they are unhappy with the band's return. They claimed that the university mainly allowed the band to perform to garner extra revenue for the school.

"I do believe that it's too soon," Pam said. "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."

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