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Real Talk: HBCU Hazing Claims Another Life

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Crying Man
Yesterday my Twitter timeline was filled with people tweeting of pictures of food, adorable babies, and unfortunately, news that Florida A&M University president had moved Wednesday to dismiss the school's longtime band director of the Marching 100 in the wake of last weekend's hazing-linked death of a drum major in the school's famed marching band.

News of the dismissal came four days after a band member died. It’s believed that hazing was involved in the events that led to his death. Four students, who had “known association with the hazing that took place over the weekend” were also suspended, according to the Miami Herald.

FAMU President James Ammons also suspended band performances out of respect for the deceased’s family and said he will convene a task force "to determine if there are any unauthorized and questionable activities associated with the culture of the Marching 100."

Ammons acknowledged, according to CNN, that at least 30 band members were let go this semester because of possible involvement in hazing.

This isn’t the first time hazing among band members has come under investigation. Last December, "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" aired a documentary about hazing among HBCU band members. Students then spoke out on the process and even demonstrated some of the activities that take place during a hazing period.

The most recent story comes to light after yet another hazing scandal. Earlier this month, members of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity at California State University, Bakersfield were arraigned on misdemeanor charges. A detailed investigation found that during pledge sessions, members were beaten with three different types of paddles, a total of 75 times. One pledge said he was whipped on the chest and stomach, and also subjected to what was called "hot wings”, i.e., being stood against a wall, while someone would slap his stomach on both sides.

I’m a “southern” woman, and I’ll be the first to sing the praises of HBCU bands and Black Greek fraternities and sororities, which provide endless entertainment, social networks, and community upliftment (not in that order). But hazing is the dark cloud that hangs above these organizations, damaging their good will. No matter how many stories are done on hazing, nor heads of organizations speak out against it and threaten to expel members who practice hazing, it persists. I’ve written about hazing many times on my personal blog, and each time everyone laments the countless injuries and deaths it causes, but there are still those that defend the practice as a “bonding experience” that proves a loyalty to the organizations.

I’m not convinced. In these incidences, no one means to harm, but yet young people keep getting injured and killed. And for what? Acceptance? To rock colors and paraphernalia?! I’m often told I have to be in an organization to understand it, but perhaps that's why I never joined. I accept me and don’t need anyone’s approval on that bad. And I certainly won’t put my life on the line to get it.

Would you?  Better, have you?

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk 
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