The death of one’s child is unimaginable under any circumstances, but one look at the heartbreak and shock etched on the faces of Robert and Pam Champion, parents of the Florida A&M University band member who was senselessly killed in a hazing incident in November, makes such a loss quite palpable. The Champions appeared at a news conference Tuesday afternoon to help launch the National Anti-Hazing/Anti-Violence Task Force, an initiative created by a broad coalition African-American organizations, such as the National Conference of Black Mayors, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, the National Save the Family Now Movement, Inc., faith-based institutions, and the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
Pam Champion, who with her husband has formed the Robert D. Champion Drum Major for Change Foundation, said that it’s imperative that the issue remains at the forefront so that people don’t forget. She also called for stiffer penalties for people who engage in hazing and bullying.
”If you're not on board, if you're not about helping getting rid of the problem, then you are part of the problem," she said at a news conference held at the National Press Club. “No more hiding. No more secrecy. We want kids to feel free to report hazing and it takes everybody. Everybody must be on board if we are to end this.”
In February, the task force will host a conference on the issue and implement a 12-point/three-year strategic plan of action that will include engagement and empowerment rallies, youth summits, seminars, a collaboration with HBCUs and other initiatives.
Hazing has been a long-held tradition at most colleges and universities across the nation for decades, but it took Champion’s death, combined increased bullying in elementary and secondary schools to force people to open their eyes and work to eradicate the practice.
Julian White, FAMU’s director of bands, said that the issue must be elevated to a national political level and that anyone running for elective office should include the issue on their platform.
“Because of what happened to Robert, this will not happen again,” he said. “But had the untimely death of Robert not occurred we would not be here today.”
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(Photo: Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Landov)