In the wake of the hazing death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion, and the subsequent charges against 13 of the band’s members, a coalition of black fraternities and sororities has come together to speak out against hazing practices. The coalition, led by Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. and member Al Sharpton, addressed reporters for the first time Thursday.
“Let’s Not Beat the Life Out of a Beautiful Legacy” reads a new ad campaign released by the coalition. An investment of $25,000 has been put towards radio and print advertisements targeted at student organizations and athletes. In addition, a town hall meeting on hazing will be held on Aug. 11 in Charlotte, N.C., and a National Anti-Hazing Day will be observed on Sept. 6.
The tagline points directly to the death of Champion, 26, who suffered internal injuries from a hazing related beating in November. Eleven member of Florida A&M’s band were charged with felony hazing, while two others received misdemeanors. In the aftermath, Florida A&M’s band has been indefinitely suspended.
“We no longer can treat it as a series of isolated and unrelated sets of unfortunate incidences,” said Jimmy Hammock, president of Phi Beta Sigma. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fl) and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., earned the nickname “Haze Buster” while serving as a regional directory for the sorority. She is in the process of drafting a bill that would force students to forfeit their eligibility for financial aid if convicted of hazing under state law, or if sanctioned by their college or university for hazing.
“Since we were enslaved we fought for a right to read and write and educate. We didn’t come to the 21st century with an African-American president and now decide that we are going to inflict pain rather than exult ourselves with educational excellence,” Sharpton said in a statement released to reporters.
Preventing hazing deaths will mean a complete shift in the culture of these organizations, as well as college campuses across both black and white America. The formation of the coalition will help that shift come from the top down.