If you’ve never been on a college campus or known someone who has, the likelihood of you knowing what fraternities and sororities are do not sit at the top of your lists of important “things” to do. Mentioning the names of the Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLO): Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Iota Phi Theta would be the same to the average reader as mentioning those famous Enlightenment Thinkers: Maximilen Robespierre, Rene Descartes, Voltaire, and Rousseau. If you’ve never researched who they were/are, they would be of absolutely no use to you unless you’re a history nerd.
With the Netflix release of “Burning Sands” and the annual discussion of pledging and hazing on college campuses, we’ll omit talking about 18th century philosophers and go straight to talking about beating the hell out of college students and watching them die.
Remember how “A Different World” and “School Daze” had major impacts on the enrollment in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) back in the late 1980s and 1990s? Do you recall how African-American students flocked to our schools after witnessing “Dwayne Wayne”,” Whitley Gilbert”,” Ron Johnson”, and “Sinbad” show us how good life could be on a black college campus? Can you remember hurrying to the movie theatres to watch Spike Lee introduce us to the “wannabes” and the “Jigaboos” detailing how shallow-minded college kids could be in the same setting? More importantly, do you remember how both productions highlighted fraternity and sorority life?
To many African-American families across America, television/cinema would be their first introductions to pledging and its familiar cousin, hazing; something that has been around for a long time.
I have done a lot of research on the topic of pledging and hazing; I consider myself both a primary and secondary source. In many of my interviews down through the years, I have spoken with men AND women who have shared their own horror stories of “legal” and “illegal” hazing activity throughout the “Divine 9”, the name given to members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council comprised of all nine members of the Black Greek Letter Organizations across the United States and abroad. Some of their experiences I dare not repeat because of the criminal nature(s) of said offenses, but many of those who made it across the “burning sands” wear their “torment” as badges of honor and brands of brotherhood/sisterhood. Many pledges did not make it. Make it across the “sands” towards membership, that is. If you’ve watched the movie (Burning Sands), you can form your own opinions to why they did not.
Students have died being pledged and/or hazed on the West Coast in the Pacific Ocean. A young man died after being hazed on a high school track in Texas. Parents have taken their children to offices of university presidents after seeing them return home with blood-soaked blue jeans after being “given wood”. Students have been kicked out of colleges for participating in hazing activities and lying about it. That’s what my research shows. Enough is enough…
You would think that with all of the lawsuits and court litigations in regards to “crossing the burning sands” that young people and college alumni would cease this activity at once, but it’s still prevalent across America. It’s prevalent today. The only reason that members of the Divine 9 aren’t held liable is because of their “commitment” to eradicating ALL hazing in its chapters. Membership Intake processes strictly prohibits any semblance of improprieties. All students wishing to gain membership must sign and notarize a waiver acknowledging their receipt and understanding of the laws of the fraternities and/or sororities from participation in illegal activity. STILL, hazing exists. Why? Stay tuned for further updates…
God bless, good night, and keep your families together.