Important details have emerged in the recent death of a Florida A&M University student, leading to a national call to action.
On November 19, 2011, Robert Champion Jr., a 26-year-old drum major in the university’s marching band, died from hazing that took place on the school’s band bus after their biggest game of the year. The parents of Champion have recently made public that Champion was gay. According to witnesses, Champion may have been targeted for more violent treatment because of his sexual orientation.
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation’s largest Black LGBT advocacy organization, is now urging the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) and Civil Rights Division, in addition to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, to launch an immediate investigation into Champion’s death as a possible anti-gay hate crime.
Champion’s death is unfortunate reminder of the need for measures that foster inclusive environments for all students, like NBJC’s recent initiative that seeks to promote LGBT competency at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)—Florida A&M being one of the nation’s oldest and largest HBCUs.
“Mr. Champion is one of our own and his death will not be in vain,” says NBJC executive director Sharon Lettman-Hicks in a statement. “That is why I am calling on the Black and LGBT communities to join NBJC in demanding a fair and thorough investigation. Be it hazing or hate crime, justice must be served.”
NBJC recently launched an online petition urging the Department of Justice to begin a fair and thorough investigation today. Sign the petition here.
GLAAD is working closely with the National Black Justice Coalition to raise visibility around this case. We offer our deepest condolences to Robert Champion Jr.’s parents and family.