Robert Champion’s Death Was Uncalled For

On November 19th, 2011 Robert Champion, Jr, was found dead on the charter bus belonging to Florida A & M University following a game between Bethune-Cookman parked outside an Orlando hotel. Champion was a member of the famed Florida A & M 100 marching band, one of the most prestigious marching bands that are part of the historical black colleges here in the US. Last week, the Orange County Medical Examiner ruled Champion’s death a homicide claiming he died of “hermorrhagic shock due to soft tissue hemorrhage, due to blunt force trauma.” Over the last month, this incident has sparked the interest of many African-Americans. One, due to the fact that it happened to a innocent student involved in what is now a hazing incident was killed. Two, it brings a negative blow to the many historical black colleges that provide the means for black students to earn a decent education. And finally, brings to light of how hazing in a band or fraternity/sorority is a means of what is called a “rites of passage.” A practice that many of these organizations have experienced due to the tune of lost charters and chapters of campus activities and criminal charges.  

What is really shocking about this case is FAMU Band Director Julian White was placed on administrative leave for Champion’s death, but had many incidents like this while during his tenure. According to a story by Gary Fineout and Kyle Hightower of the Associated Press, “in 2001, FAMU band member Marcus Parker suffered kidney damage because of a beating with a paddle. Three years earlier, Ivery Luckey, a clarinet player from Ocala, Florida, said he was paddled around 300 times, sending him to the hospital and leaving him physically and emotionally scarred.” So, you mean to say that this death is reason for White to be placed on a leave? This is sick and he needs to be fired. The fact that he allowed these past incidents as well as Robert’s death sheds some light on how this problem could’ve been eliminated. Champion’s report according to Dr. Sara Irrgang, an associate medical examiner in this case, took the liberty to explain in detail how senseless the four students beat him. He had visual bruises on his back, chest, arms, and shoulders. The internal bleeding from his beating caused him to go into shock leading to his death. Under intense scrutiny and flack from FAMU’s board of trustees, Julian White is still on leave until the investigation is completed. Florida Governor Rick Scott is asking for the resignation of FAMU’s president. While last week, FAMU’s Board of Trustees reprimanded President James Ammons on how the handled these and past hazing incidents. University officials plan to investigate to see if hazing has been addressed properly and in a timely manner.

Just days before the Orange County Medical Examiner gave their report, three members of FAMU’s marching band were charged in the beating of a fellow bandmate. James Harris, 22, was charged with hazing, while Sean Hobson, 23, and Aaron Golson, 19, were charged with both battery and hazing. These three allegedly beat freshman band-member Bria Hunter with metal rulers and physically beating her, causing her to have blood clots in her legs and having a broken thigh bone. This incident took place three weeks before Robert Champion’s death adding to the drama of the hazing that members of the “Red Dawg Order” perform every year.

In the state of Florida, all deaths related to or involving hazing is considered a third-degree felony. This case is past a felony, it’s now a homicide. And with these new charges involving Bria Hunter, further raises the questions of why FAMU continues to let this go on? 

What breaks my heart is that the actions of these students reflect the lack of supervision to a program who’s credibility brings the school notoriety and positive press around the world. Yet, the faculty turns a blind eye to the serious actions to these young adults. We’ve seen the situation unfold at Penn State where innocent teens and young adults were molested, while the school turns their back due to fear the school could lose hundreds of millions on severity of these crimes. FAMU acted in the same manner. They didn’t pay attention to the lives of the students at the risk of losing their credibility while protecting their students. College is supposed to be an enriching experience before one enters the real world. Its a time to find oneself and make decisions that will help one to become productive in society. When students hurt other students or innocently take ones life, that’s not part of what any student should endure. It seems that universities and colleges are now in the business of making money and not really paying attention to the students. If they did, then, we wouldn’t have the Coach Sandusky’s or the death of Robert Champion, Jr. I applaud the actions of sister Bria Hunter in that she made the right decision to speak the truth on hazing. Her actions are now the catalyst for schools to raise the bar on violence committed against other students. Schools have to start playing a role in dealing with hazing from jump. Not when someone dies or when they’ve made national headlines due to negative press over something that should’ve been prevented.


The Revolution Will Be Televised

Brian Pace

The Pace Report




A Voice for the Innocent On Lockdown

According to Human Rights Watch, a not-for-profit civil rights organization whose mission is to protect and advocate the human rights of those who’ve been oppressed through the legal and political atrocities of the law and violators of inhumane human rights, recently gave some disparities of men of color and minorities currently incarcerated. Human Rights Watch’s US program director Jamie Fellner states “one in ten black men is behind bars.” She later breaks down how this equates to the prison system as a whole.

According to Fellner’s data based on the info from the U.S. Census Bureau:

-Blacks and Hispanics make up 62 percent of the incarcerated population, though comprising only 25 percent of the national population;

-Between ten and fifteen percent of black men are incarcerated in twelve states (Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming);

-Black women are incarcerated at rates between ten and thirty-five times greater than the rates of white women in fifteen states (Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming); and

-Hispanic youth are incarcerated at rates seven to seventeen times greater than those of whites in Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, while the incarceration rate for black youth is between twelve and twenty-five times greater than those of whites in Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, and New Jersey.

Blacks who are incarcerated are the new breed of the new prison labor that’s making hundred of millions of dollars for Fortune 500 corporations. Yet, when one really looks at the many men and women who are locked up, how many of them are innocent and are jailed due to lack of financial resources for proper legal representation? Law Professor Michelle Alexander at The Ohio State University and author of the New York Times bestseller “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” adds: “more African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.”

There is also a high number of men sitting in jail cells due to the disparities of the flawed drug cases that were only designed to give people criminal records in the first place. With the wave of crack cocaine during the 1980’s, hundreds of black men sat in jail due to callous and unjustified sentences. Like the case of brothers Jose and Maximo Colon. In 2008, the two brothers were arrested for allegedly selling cocaine in a club in Queens, New York. By the grace of God, the club’s video camera’s spared the brothers from serving prison time. The detectives at the time were brought up on charges of false arrest and planting of an illicit drug. Ex-police officer Stephen Anderson and his partner during their testimony in court, admitted to a practice known as “flaking,” when officers plant drugs on people to meet their monthly arrest quota. The case was later dropped and the Colon brothers received a $300,000 settlement from the City of New York. Again, this case and others, make you question the legalities of how many men are incarcerated due to corrupt acts of police brutality and shady practices. 

Last week, in a court battle that took 30 years to overturn, Philadelphia prosecutors announced that they’d drop pursing the death penalty for civil rights activist and journalist Mumia Abu Jamal. In the 30 years he’s been on death row, Mumia hasn’t had any record of violence and disciplinary problems in prison. Although he’s still officially on death row, he still is under maximum solitary confinement. Meaning, Mumia is still locked down 23 hours a day and communicates with his family and legal council behind bars with no physical contact whatsoever.

Mumia Abu Jamal gained notoriety during an event that took place on December 9, 1981, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when officer Daniel Faulkner made a traffic stop of William Cook, Mumia’s brother, on a Philadelphia street. Officer Falkner pulled directly behind his brother’s car, then radioed the police for backup. Falkner then approached Cook’s and, and asked him to get out of his car. As Officer Faulkner handcuffed Mr. Cook, while Mumia, who was behind the taxi parked across the street, got out of his car and ran toward Officer Faulkner and shot him in the back. It was alleged that the two exchanged fire wounding just Mumia and hitting the officer at close range with a bullet in the brain eventually killing him.

The sad thing about Mumia’s case, like the Colon Brothers, Troy Davis and endless brothers who sit innocent in America’s prisons, is that the credibility of witnesses and how Mumia has been treated throughout his 30 years since his trial. In 2001 a private investigator told the press that one of the key witnesses of the case recanted his testimony. Also, the hospital confession that was allegedly made a short time after Mumia was taken to the hospital couldn’t be made at the time due to the severity of the injuries and lack of evidence of the doctors who took Mumia in after the accident. Throughout the appeals court cases, prosecutors on two accounts  found the case had been flawed due to bias and lack of allowing certain information to help state Mumia’s case.

Whether Mumia’s case ever get a fair trial, only God and the diligent and ethical people who are on the front-lines to seek wisdom and perseverance for his justice. My problem is the legal system continues to turn its eye on the innocent. Now that we’re in a society where we’re constantly being captured on video via advanced surveillance systems and smart phones, the system still callously punishes and ruins innocent peoples lives. Take for instance the case of the Colon Brothers. These guys lost their business and are still trying to rid of the charges that were placed on their record for crimes they didn’t commit. But the system is now designed for blacks and minorities to develop a criminal record to penalize them for many of their lives. It’s sad and pathetic when this is blatantly being presented, yet, the justice department won’t address these issues. The media also caters to the “anti-black criminality” mind-state which continues to prosecute people before even having a trial. 

The new evidence in Mumia’s case is beginning to play out like a bad soap opera. And the mere fact that he doesn’t get a new trial isn’t fair. For over 20 years there has been a lot of new evidence that could’ve set Mumia free. And like others like him; still sit in cells all over the country due to poor legal representation, illicit police activity, and how law enforcement act worse than the “so-called” criminals they’ve incarcerated. The next time people look at the statistics of blacks in the prison system, just think about the innocent victims who are locked up. These are the real numbers the press or the US census don’t tell you. Just something for you to think about.


The Revolution Will Be Televised

Brian Pace

The Pace Report


Must Read Hoilday Stocking Stuffers

Now that the holiday season is now in full gear, many people have been asking me what book or books they should buy their loved ones for Christmas. People who know me, know that I love to read biographies from music to history. These selections I feel are some of the best I’ve read all year. But as of late, these books haven’t been getting a lot of press and believe need to be studied by the true music connoisseur. 

I was really blown away by columnist and writer Susan Whitall’s biography of soul icon Little Willie John’s “Fever.” Co-written with John’s oldest son Kevin John, the two recollect Willie’s meteoric rise as one of soul music’s pioneering innovators to living a life that led to his mysterious death in Walla Walla State Penitentiary in 1968. In the 30 year’s of his short life, Willie’s voice influenced a legion of soul singers and rock groups like Johnnie Taylor, James Brown, The Beatles, Sam and Dave, B.B. King, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder. Born William Edward John, John was raised in Detroit’s rough North End. As a child, his family recalls him singing since a little kid while singing in church. Writer Susan Whitall interview’s all of John’s remaining siblings including his sister, soul singer Mabel John, who had a hit in 1965 with “Your Good Thing is About to End.” The story also elaborates on how John, who was all but 5’2, made A’s and B’s while in high school, but dropped out in his senior year to pursue music.

Many musicians like vocalists Jerry Butler and Mack Rice recall how his vocal maturity at 16 years old would have band leaders like Count Basie and Hal Neeley in awe when he performed on stage or in the recording studio. His hit records “Fever,”  “Sleep,” “Talk to Me, Talk to Me,” and “Cottage for Sale” were the precursor to what would evolve into soul music during the early 1960’s. Musicians like Jackie Wilson and James Brown would dislike opening for Willie due to his perfection and how he worked a stage. Whitall’s vividly gives candid accounts from musicians who saw and lived these performance including Sam Moore of the legendary Sam and Dave.

Willie did live the high life which lead to him down a road of drug and alcohol abuse. Throughout his life he suffered from seizures, which was also increased by his heavy drinking; later unravels when his tragic tale of him being convicted of murder and him dying in prison now sheds some light on his legacy.

This book is the first to ever deal with the life of this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Susan Whitall and Kevin John did an outstanding job on bringing to light a musical insight on one of the pioneering and overshadowed soul icons of his generation.

One of the most incredible jazz and music stories I’ve ever reported and read about is the fantastic life of guitarist Pat Martino. In fact, 2011 has been the year of Mr. Martino. His latest High Note Records release “Undeniable” is his first record in 11 years. His latest autobiography “Here and Now” was written with legendary Jazz Times writer Bill Milkowski. 

During the mid-1960’s jazz music was changing towards “fusion” and “soul jazz” and the idiom of most post-bop jazz quartets and quintets changed as well. Rock and soul music has dominating the clubs and on radio and jazz music as a whole was reflecting the mood and times of the generation and listeners. 

Guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and Jim Hall were the masters at their game and created a voice and a distinctive technique style in their playing that gave way to the changes to what the 1960’s were to bring musically. The changing of the guard for jazz guitarists came when young and innovative musicians like Melvin Sparks, George Benson, and Pat Martino gave way to the new music trends that were part of the new jazz music taking shape.

Pat Martino, in his many years as an accomplished jazz guitarist inventing the “Conversion to Minor” technique, Martino took time out to write his autobiography “Here and Now” with jazz writer and biographer Bill Milkowski. According to Pat, he believes the time was right to document and reflect on his many life experiences. “I felt it was time to document my life as a musician and hope readers understand my sense of purpose as a musician, teacher, and person.” 

Born Pat Azzara on August 25th, 1944 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pat’s father was local musician and took him and exposed him to music at an early age. Being real close to the local music scene, his dad would take him to see jazz icons like Wes Montgomery which would leave a heavy impact on Pat musically. By the time he picked up the guitar at 12 years old he was studying with music teacher Dennis Sandole who’d also was the teacher to saxophonist John Coltrane. Trane would develop a friendship and over time they’d discuss music.

Martino hails both Wes Montgomery and Johnny Smith as his musical influences that inspired him to play the guitar.

Not out of high school, the young Martino was playing professionally with the likes of Lloyd Price, Slide Hampton, Red Holloway, Bobby Darin, Chubby Checker, and Bobby Rydell. He later moved to Harlem, New York where he was part of the new “soul jazz” sound that was shaping the country. Jazz units that used the organ trio as a way to incorporate both a soulful and smaller sound. In fact, Pat played with some of the most influential organ players in the history of jazz including Don Patterson, Brother Jack McDuff, and Charles Earland. Since he was 18, Pat has been a leader and has played all styles of jazz music.

In early 1980, Pat had undergone and experienced a series of aneurysms that left him without memory of his accomplishments as a guitarist. It took many years of therapy and rehabilitation to make his drastic comeback in music.

“Here and Now” is Pat’s recollection of his past, present, and future as musician. Pat explains the hImageard recovery from his near fatal aneurysm and how he used technology to restore his ability to play and tour again. He also explains how the music scene was changing when he moved to Harlem as a teen and now how it affected jazz music in today’s younger jazz musicians.

Pat’s story is a triumph and an encouragement to those who said he’ll never be able to play again. His testimony is major life lesson in that with faith, perseverance, and a strong will to live, all things are possible.

I highly recommend both “Fever” and “Here and Now” as must read books for the holiday season. 


The Revolution Will Be Televised

Brian Pace

The Pace Report