The fear was constant in your mind. You’re in a dark room with a blindfold on with about three other people who are taking turns hitting you.
– Regina Moore, Alabama A&M
The death of Florida A&M marching band member Robert Champion exposed a secret culture within the Historically Black College University marching bands.
Champion, 26, died Nov. 19, 2011 from “hemorrhagic shock” and “blunt force trauma” after sustaining multiple blows to his body, according to an autopsy report obtained by The Orlando Sentinel.
HBCU bands have long been scrutinized for hazing, but deaths within this community are rare.
LaGarian Bridgewater, a 26-year-old former band member for Southern University, revealed the culture of hazing he endured under the system and helped continue.
In the last 15 years, 20 members of southern university’s band were arrested for violent hazing. All band members at the university must now sign anti-hazing contracts.
Lagarian Bridgwater, former Southern University Band Member
Bridgewater and six other suspects plead no contest to second- degree felony battery three years ago for hazing then-freshman Marcus Heath.
Joining Southern University’s marching program was a childhood dream come true for Bridgewater who was a part of the program’s French horn section.
Bridgewater reveals band members are hazed as soon as they step onto campus. The pledges, he said, are referred to as “crabs” and organized by section according to the instrument they play.
Each section, he said, have their own ritual.
About a month into the process, he said, he was hit with a two by four about “30 times a night.” Bridgewater was “terrified” during his pledge process and recalled it as being “painful.”
Marcus Heath had an unfortunate experience during his pledge process. The beatings Heath endured landed him in a hospital fighting for his life.
Bridgewater hazed Heath along with six other members of his section.
Marcus Heath, he said, was hit with a two by four about 100 times. Heath could barely walk following the beating.
When I used the bathroom I saw blood was coming out, Heath said.
Heath was immediately rushed to the hospital where he was placed on a ventilator to help him breathe. His kidneys stopped functioning.
Marcus Heath, former Southern University band member
Bridgewater said hazing builds “camaraderie, a brotherhood.”
“We played the same instruments, we ate together, we studied together and got hazed together,” he said.
Regina Moore, a former student at Alabama A&M, pledged the flute section in the university’s marching band.
“The fear was constant in your mind,” she said. “You’re in a dark room with a blindfold on with about three other people who are taking turns hitting you.“
Regina Moore, former Alabama A&M band member
Regina and her ‘crab’ sisters initially wanted to stop hazing for future pledges. But the pain, she said, changed her. By the end of her process, her mind changed to where she couldn’t wait to finish, so she can do it to the next girl.
But her crab sister went to the hospital for her injuries. The university found out
and expelled the flute section from the school.
The death of Robert Champion sparked a huge outcry on the issue of hazing and prompted many to push for reform in the band groups.
As FAMU continues its search for a band director to lead the once proud Marching 100, Champion’s parents are continuing their fight for justice.
This unfortunate incident greatly affected everyone involved. Change is needed to prevent another Robert Champion case from ever occurring again.
Head over to Collegiate NetVision (CNV) to watch Robert Champion Tribute video by clicking here
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