A Florida Minister Takes On Hazing

Reverend Dr. R.B. Holmes Jr. tells BET.com hazing isn’t just a “Black problem” and people need to know that it’s wrong, period. 

Posted: 01/19/2012 09:30 AM EST

On Dec. 16, the death of FAMU Drum Mayor Robert Champion was ruled a homicide. Autopsy results showed the 26-year-old suffered excessive blows to his head and internal bleeding, all an alleged result of being hazed.


A month later, as announced on Tuesday, a host of civil rights organizations have gathered to create a National Anti-Hazing and Anti-Violence Task Force. But with reports of hazing dating back to the 1600s, some might ask, why now?


“I think that what has happened with the Robert Champion case is that he has become the poster child, or the face, to hazing. So, unfortunately, or fortunately, this could be a movement to say; hey, look what hazing can do when it goes unchained and unchallenged,” Reverend Dr. R.B. Holmes Jr., organizer of the task force and pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida, tells BET.com.


According to Holmes, hazing is an act perpetrated on a person unwillingly that can cause mental, emotional, spiritual or physical damage. He says for too long it has been a process of belonging to organizations, and now people see that not only can it be dangerous and demeaning, but also deadly.


According to an essay by Hank Nuwer posted on the website StopHazing.org, campus controversy over hazing dates back to 1657, when Harvard College fined upperclassmen for hazing freshmen. It has long been a way “to teach precedence, build school loyalty and assimilate students from all economic classes,” Nuwer writes. Although in recent years most of the spotlight surrounding the crude acts has focused on assimilation into organizations at historically Black colleges and universities, Holmes wants to remind others that it’s not a problem at only those places.


“It is not just a Black problem,” he says. “Hazing is in all cultures; the military, football teams, sororities, fraternities, predominantly white universities, and predominantly Black universities.”


Spurred by Champion's death, the first national anti-hazing conference will take place at South Carolina State University on February 24 and 25. Holmes and his counterparts hope to use the platform to connect the hazing issue to the larger one of violence in the Black community.


“I think that in any movement they start somewhere,” he said. “It’s time for the Black leadership to start talking because violence has gone unshaken and unchallenged for too long in our culture; Black on Black crime, violence in our music and videos, violence against our women, against our senior citizens.”


Most of all, for the people who have been involved in hazing, have been victimized, or simply want to fight against it, Holmes says that change starts with education.


“We have to bring information to the forefront to let folk know that hazing did not just start with Robert Champion. But I pray to God that it ends with Robert Champion.”


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(Photo: AP Photo/David Goldman)

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