When I arrived on the campus of Florida A&M University as a bright eyed freshman 20 year ago, I had no idea what I was in store for.
Being the first in my family to attend a four-year university, I had no one to warm me of the pitfalls that could fall before me. I had no warnings that late nights and early morning classes don’t mix. Nobody told me that I couldn’t have at least 3-4 girlfriends even if the ratio was 12 females to 1 male. Nobody told me that I’d go hungry some nights.
All I knew is that I was at FAMU and I was going to be in the Marching 100. That was my goal and I was determined to reach it.
I’m proud to say that I achieved my goal and I did it without being a victim of hazing. I know some may smirk as you do the math and say to yourself, “he went into the band in 1991 and they weren’t hazing back then? That’s old school. They beat everybody”.
Read again. I didn’t get hazed.
I can’t speak for everyone else in my freshman class. I can only speak for myself and a few others. And the main reason I can say that I didn’t get hazed was because I didn’t give anyone the opportunity to. There were attempts, but I declined the offer. There were threats, but I walked away from them.
“You won’t get respected”.
“You’ll be called soft”.
“Homeboy…you know we all did it so you gotta do it too”.
Those are just some of the things I can remember hearing throughout that year. But I chose to ignore them all.
Unfortunately, for many young people matriculating through college and deciding whether to join fraternities and sororities (or marching bands), they make the wrong decision.
Deciding to join those organizations is not the wrong choice. Accepting hazing and everything that comes with it is the wrong choice. The people who decide to be hazed are just was wrong as the people who do the hazing. Hazing is a two-way street. Nobody wants to hear that and most won’t accept it, but it’s the truth.
The recent death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion has once again brought back the conversation about hazing.
His death and the events surrounding it, which are still under investigation, hit very close to home for me. We both marching in the FAMU band. We both served in the capacity of drum major. And since were are both part of a small fraternity of men, we met on a few occasions.
We both were probably exposed to the subcultures that most college campuses possess, and which breed hazing. As he was laid to rest this week, the question was raised several times about what can be done to stop the hazing culture within our institutions of higher learning. More education? Stiffer penalties for those who haze (and allow themselves to be hazed)?
Whatever the answer, the process to rectify must start now. It must begin so that in the future we don’t lose any more Robert Champions.