Although originally formed to build a sense of camaraderie, many black Greek fraternities and sororities have seemingly lost its way. While films such as Drumline and Stomp the Yard provided minor glimpses into black Greek life and Spike Lee’s classic School Daze showed the grueling means of joining a fraternity (albeit comical at times), the newest Netflix original Burning Sands is being hailed as “a raw look at the pledging process” at a fictional historically black university.
Written and directed by Gerard McMurray (best known for producing Fruitvale Station), Burning Sands goes inside the Greek world to explore the widely known yet rarely acknowledged dangers associated with fraternity pledging: hazing.
The film follows a young prospect named Zurich (played by American Crime actor Trevor Jackson) undergoing the initiation process with fellow pledges; initially, the frat’s pledging rituals seem fairly innocent but progressively worsen as “Hell Night” approaches. From there, “Z” becomes torn between alerting the university’s administration about the hazing violence or following the brotherhood’s code of silence.
The premise seems all too familiar; a morally-competent individual is faced with an ethical dilemma and is forced to either do something about it or submit and be complicit with it for the sake of belonging – a situation far too common among college pledges.
Sure, fraternities and sororities can be a great tool for building character and expanding professional networks but it would be foolish to even suggest that these are even remotely the missions of present day black Greek life. As the number of hazing-related deaths continues to rise, just ponder on the following question: Is the abuse, humiliation, and degradation really worth it in the end?
Be sure to check out Burning Sands premiere on Netflix on March 10.