2 days ago
Marching Bands come alive at parades, competitions, and of course, half time! You can feel the excitement when the drums start booming, but you probably won’t feel the impact of a young student getting hazed, at least not directly.
It’s a sad fact that some marching band members will meet the same fate as Robert Champion, whom was a 26-year-old drum major. Robert was discovered to be dead on the band’s bus after a football game performance.
The hazing that is believe to have caused his early death was contributed to the “walk through a wall fists” that Police and former band members have stated that Champion was most-likely forced to go through as part of a hazing event. Police have followed up by saying that Robert Champion was witnessed by a few who saw him vomit, and he later complained that he “couldn’t breathe” a short time before he collapsed and eventually died.
Stepping aside from all of the political discussion and misinformation being pushed by many universities, hazing is a long-established practice that is less prevalent than before, but still happens today. How would I know? I’m a proud member of a national fraternity (name withheld for obvious reasons) and I was hazed… but I survived and I’m discussing this with you today.
I’m not sure who would stand up before us all and admit this kind of thing, but it does exist and to ignore this is just a shame. Robert and others have died, how long does this have to go on. When one school (this time Florida A & M / FAMU), next time it will be another large university. Each time a marching band experiences a tragic loss like this, marching bands everywhere get a black eye. This kind of modern-day social practice needs to be changed or limited to just a mental game, rather than the physical acts that took Robert’s life.
Sure, the President of FAMU has fired Dr. Julian White (the band’s director), and everyone is acting like they are all shocked about this. Let’s all take a deep breath and have a real discussion about it, and make some real changes to keep the honor and the feeling of excitement alive, because to me that’s what the marching band is all about.
With Louis Armstrong's birthday festival less than a month away, jazz fans and art lovers were distraught to hear that a careless contractor had damaged his statue in Armstrong Park.
Michael DeMocker / The Times-PicayuneRutted mud and puddles lead from the promenade to the park's iconic statue of Louis Armstrong, which had been fronted by a newly poured plaza for the garden's unveiling in April.
"I'm so disturbed, I can't tell you, " said Phoebe Jacobs, vice president of the Louis Armstrong Foundation and a close friend of the Armstrong family.
Jacobs said that when she helped raise money for the statue during the mid-1970s, the largest donation came from Armstrong friend and fellow singer Bing Crosby, who turned over the proceeds of an all-star concert he gave in San Francisco.
Since then, Jacobs and others from the foundation have organized park cleanups and made sure the statue is cared for.
"This is like our baby, " she said. "How could this happen?"
Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced Thursday that he has ordered contractor A.M.E. Disaster Recovery Services off the job after the city found that, in addition to the countless other mishaps, A.M.E. crews had cracked part of the Armstrong statue. Observers said workers continued to lift the bronze even though crooked bolts set in its base were stuck, stretching the bronze and separating Armstrong's left shoe from the statue's base.
Sculptor Elizabeth Catlett, 95, lives in Mexico and couldn't be reached for comment.
But New Orleans gallery owner Stella Jones, who represents Catlett's work, said she believes Catlett would be quite unhappy, as she was when a man twisted off the statue's trumpet in 1988.
"I know she was upset that it had been disfigured, " said Jones, noting that Catlett quickly recast the damaged part of the trumpet, which was cracked in five places and missing its mouthpiece. Three weeks after the incident, a photo in The Times-Picayune showed two men welding a new 80-pound horn into Armstrong's left hand.
This time, that sort of swift response by the artist herself is nearly impossible, given her age and distance from New Orleans, Jones said.
Catlett felt a bond with Louis Armstrong, said Catlett biographer Samella Lewis, who was Catlett's student when they first met in the 1940s at Dillard University, where Catlett founded the art department. The sculptor loved New Orleans and its music, was a good singer herself and was a friend to many jazz musicians here and in New York, Lewis said.
Lewis said black residents weren't allowed in City Park at the time but Catlett was determined that her students see a Pablo Picasso show at what was then the Delgado Art Museum.
Michael DeMocker / The Times-PicayuneArmstrong Park's Rampart Street entrance arch overlooks a muddy mess. Brand-new concrete walkways began cracking last month, days after Mayor Ray Nagin's grand unveiling of the park's sculpture garden.
"So she rented a bus with her own money and drove us to the steps of the museum, who let us in, " said Lewis, a New Orleans native. "I had never seen anyone act like that in New Orleans, to defend their rights."
Over the years, Lewis said, Catlett turned down many artistic commissions but always wanted to create a bronze of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, which the city commissioned last year for Armstrong Park's new Roots of Music sculpture garden. Her only other public work is a 2003 commission in Manhattan's Riverside Park that honors writer Ralph Ellison, a Harlem Renaissance contemporary of Catlett's, Lewis said.
City officials are now consulting with art-restoration specialists to decide what should be done about the Armstrong statue, said mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni. "Obviously after what this park's been through, we're committed to restoring the statue using qualified art experts and expert art movers, " he said.
New Orleans sculptor Sheleen Jones-Adenle said she's seen the damage and it can be repaired. "That area down by the shoe is the weakest part: It's mostly decorative and not as thick as the piece itself, so it gave before any other piece did, " said Jones-Adenle, who often works with bronze and created the Rev. Avery Alexander statue in Duncan Plaza and two works for the new Armstrong Park sculpture garden, a statue of Tootie Montana and another of a New Orleans brass band.
Jones-Adenle said anyone repairing the damage will likely heat the bronze to make it malleable, gently push the shoe back into place and then finish the area in a way that the repair can't be seen. The hardest part will be getting the finish right, "the way Ms. Catlett wanted it to look, " she said.
In early August, during SatchmoFest, crowds typically second-line from the statue to the grounds of the Old U.S. Mint, where the festival is held. Jacobs predicted that ardent jazz fans will be in disbelief at the damage to Armstrong's statue.
"Louis Armstrong put New Orleans on the map and sang about it every place he went, " Jacobs said. "How could the city do such a thing?"