There are new developments in the case of Robert Champion, the 26-year-old Florida A&M University drum major who died in November 2011 after a vicious hazing from fellow band members. Champion was gay. On Monday, prosecutors charged 12 former FAMU band members with manslaughter in connection with Champion's death.
Champion's parents said they "may ask Florida Gov. Rick Scott or the chancellor of the State University System to intervene" and ensure that FAMU's world-renown marching band remains suspended, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
The band has been suspended since shortly after Champion, a drum major, was beaten to death by fellow band members in Orlando in late 2011. While FAMU has not said when the band will return, there is speculation that since the university is seeking a new band director, the ensemble could be reinstated this year.
Pamela Champion said the band should be suspended for several years — as would be the case if a fraternity had been involved in a hazing death, she said.
The Champions and their attorney, Christopher Chestnut, said the band is not ready to perform because FAMU has not done enough to eradicate hazing. "If you have not cleaned up anything … then what good is bringing in a new band director going to do?," Pamela Champion said. "[It's] just taking a new band director and throwing him into dirty water."
FAMU is Florida's only public, historically black university. The Tallahassee-based university was founded in 1887 "and it is the largest historically black university in the United States by enrollment," according to its Wiki.
FAMU is well-known for its Marching "100" Band—which has a long history of violent hazing incidents. Investigators learned in May 2012 that more than 100 members of the marching band were NOT registered students. That included at least three of the 11 band members charged initially charged with felony hazing in May 2012. That felony hazing charge carried a maximum penalty of almost five years. The new manslaughter charges are punishable by up to 15 years in prison
Champion's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the bus company and driver, claiming they willingly participated in illegal hazing acts over many years. The university's attorneys created an uproar with their initial response to that lawsui last fall. The filing suggested the deceased student was responsible for his own death.
Champion's parents publicly revealed in January 2012 that their son was gay. In addition to being vocally opposed to hazing, Champion's sexuality could have been among the reasons why he was viciously beaten during the attack, according to the family's attorney. Read more at my article for Ebony: "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell": Why Has Black Media Ignored the Sexuality of FAMU Hazing Victim Robert Champion?"
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