Special Reports

‘Burning Sands’ Sheds Light On Fraternity Hazing


"Burning Sands," Netflix's new fictionalized film that delves into the fraternity pledge process of a historically black college. It brings to focus the challenges five pledges faced in their last week of their pledge process while they are hazed by initiated members a fictional fraternity.

The pledges go through what is termed as hell week, wherein the lead character Zurich, played by Trevor Jackson, is torn between honoring the tradition of a code of silence or whether to speak out against the physical and mental abuses that pass during the pledge process.

Gerard McMurray, "Burning Sands" director and co-writer draw from his own experiences in pledging Omega Psi Phi at Howard University. He wanted to show what it was like attending a historically black college or university (HBCU).

McMurray hopes that by showing "Burning Sands," it might generate talks regarding the Black Greek community, particularly the 'Divine 9,' Ebony reported. He knew that the underground process of pledging with a black fraternity is going to rouse up reactions; accordingly, he is ready for the criticism and is willing to lead talks about keeping Black Greek organizations alive.

Talks indeed started just as soon as the trailer for "Burning Sands" was dropped. Many have taken issue with McMurray's presentation of the seemingly outlawed practice many fraternities and sororities still engage in today.

Though the nine Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) in the NPHC outlawed pledging back in 1990, McMurray's film aims to shed light that the practice of hazing is still prevalent on campuses across the nation. NPHC stated that its member organizations do not condone, support or encourage the production of movies, literature or social media that promotes hazing.

Notwithstanding NPHC's statement, hazing still persists, not only in Black Greek organizations. There are recorded incidents that sometimes turned out deadly. In 2010, Phi Beta Sigma was disbanded due to the death of a pledge in a hazing incident involving extraneous workout, according to Dallas News.

A 2011 incident at Florida's A&M University inspired McMurray to write "Burning Sands." Curiously, it does not involve a fraternity but the university's marching band. A hazing ritual caused the death of a student. The police called it hazing. State law called it a felony. The marching band called it Crossing Bus C. Touch the back wall and it is over, Tampa Bay Times reported.

Although "Burning Sands" caused a stir in the NPHC community, McMurray hopes that it starts meaningful dialogue pertaining to underground hazing in BGLO's as well as other organizations on college campuses.

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