In January of this year the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the HBCU, and the Black Fraternities and Sororities (also known as the Divine 9) and other Black organizations held an emergency press conference in reference to the tragic beating death of Robert Champion Jr., by members of the marching band in some sort of bizarre hazing ritual. 
It was just announced that the President of the University has resigned (been fired?) from his post; and the band has been suspended for a year.  Apparently, other than that, there were no criminal charges brought to bear, per  se.

In light of the recent FAMU (Florida A&M University) decision, I'm re-circulating this posting to my blog, www.gloriadulanwilson.blogspot.com:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Anti-Hazing Press Conference in Response to the Death of FAMU Band Student

Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

I just received an email in reference to the January 17 press conference convened by the National Newspaper Publishers Assn.(NNPA), Black Church, and Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Leaders to Announce A New Anti-Hazing Initiative. The conference should be broadcast nationally.

If you can make it, it would be a good idea to be in attendance to show solidarity and support.
My response to the "anti-hazing" concept follows. If you agree (or disagree) please comment with your ideas and concepts:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: First of all, my profound condolences to the Champion family on the loss of their son, Robert, Jr. There is nothing anyone can say or do to take away the pain and agony of the loss of a child. But my prayers are with them as they go through this horrific period.

When we are confronted with the horrors of "hazing" as some poor student falls prey to the overzealous (or, in some cases mean spirited) behavior of their fellow students, or peers, who are apparently lacking in proper supervision, values, or priorities, we are horrified. And each time either a sorority or a fraternity (and in this instance a marching band) comes under scrutiny and fire for the tragedy that ensues such banal activities.

I must admit I never heard of bands having rites of passage. I always thought membership was based on whether you could actually play an instrument, or not; and march to the music sufficiently not to cause problems with other members of the marching band. When it became necessary to initiate someone into a band is beyond me, and somewhat ridiculous on the face of it. Either you're a musician or you're not!

Most of us who are members of our Black fraternities and sororities have fond memories of having "survived pledge week," and are prepared to regale each other with how "tuff" the dean of pledgees was, and how we handled it (or not). Many of us have decorated paraphenalia from the initiations of Black in the day. We had no reports of anyone dying or being beaten to within an inch of their lives while going through an initiation process.

I have often stated that our Black fraternities and sororities (also called the Divine Nine) are the last bastions of our lost African "rites of passage" from childhood to man or womanhood; and I still maintain that stance.

However, given the fact that we, as adults no longer (by law) have the tools to discipline our children during their formative years, so tragedies like these don't happen; and since so many of our kids have been exposed to a daily overdose of violence - at least from the tender age of one - via TV, movies, so-called gangsta rap music, etc., I think we now need to review and come up with a better plan for our initiations and pledging rites.

And, notice, I did not say discontinue them -- no one "joins" a Fraternity or Sorority - they must pledge. Our rites have reason - to bring about loyalty, discipline and tradition. We are not a club -- we are a society; a social organization. For the most part we have each been a source and a force for good in the Black community for over a 100 years (Delta Sigma Theta just celebrated our 99th Founders' Day Anniversary - and will be 100 in 2013), and plan to continue to be so. And we will not have our names or reputations sullied by the taint of over zealous individuals who take out their internal hostilities against their brothers and sisters through the forms of brutal hazing.

You realize of course, however, that with the mindset of many of today's youth, you can't just tell them that "hazing" is bad. And you can't just tell them to stop "hazing" either. Unfortunately, in many instances, it's hardwired into our premordial human DNA (regardless of whether we're white, Black, Asian, Indian, etc). It's as old as the "new kid on the block" who has to prove him or herself worthy of being a part of the group or the neighborhood.

Instead of the tired old m.o. of verbally condemning their actions, or preaching them away from our guidance, we need a paradigm shift: Perhaps they should have task oriented initiations in a way that benefits the organization (Fraternity, Sorority, Band, or other group) and at the same time forges a bond between the new initiates. It can be fun or it can be serious; or a mix of both. It can exist over a prescribed period of time (3 to 6 weeks). Perhaps the "pledgees" can perform - dance, sing, act, or do something quirky (which is what we had to do in the early days, anyway) for their fellow brothers and sisters.

Or perhaps they can be required to perform a series of some sort of community service, for which they will be rated in terms of delivery and impact (which is what is done on the grad chapter level of Delta Sigma Theta).

You can't just be against something, without giving them something positive to replace it with; and without the mature adult guidance and mentorship to make sure it is implemented appropriately.

As Black people, we really are in the position of saving our youth, and ourselves in the bargain. We just have to think outside the white box, and look at all the creative, innovative, multicultural Best Practices, and unique ways we have, so that we can reinstate our culture of cohesiveness and progress at the same time (you know that unity that helped us survive and surpass enslavement, racism, and ignorance?).

Again, my condolences to the Champion family. For those who are interested in providing further assistance, contact www.savethefamily.com; or Trice Edney Communications

Stay Blessed &
Gloria Dulan-Wilson
Posted by Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Long live the memory and the lessons of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
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