Burnt Sands

By Carl Hairston

So, I finally watched the Black Twitter sensation “Burning Sands”. I had been ignoring my undergrad chapter GroupMe as well as a few other Alpha ones because the movie seemed to be the only topic of discussion for a while. After finally giving it 102 minutes of my life, I see why the discussions have been so heated.

I won’t blow the entire story here, but it follows 6 (then quickly to 5) young men preparing for Hell Week for a fictitious Black Greek Letter Organization (BGLO) at a fictitious school. Outside of the weak character development and surface level storyline, I was most upset with the overall lack of brotherhood showcased by the movie. I joined my organization first and foremost because of the brotherhood. Whatever above ground, underground, middle ground or high ground process you go through, the brotherhood/sisterhood should be the very first element. If you don’t gain this, you might as well not even join. In Burning Sands, the line was in Hell Week (days before probating) and didn’t know some basic information about each other, including real names and hometowns.

One of the pledges struggled to recite fraternity history (such as Phi Betta Kappa being founded on the campus of William & Mary in 1776), and one pledge constantly told the others he didn’t like them and was just pledging for the females. There was also constant violence with no lessons learned, spitting in the face, forced fornication with females, and the list goes on and on. While I can’t sit here and say none of these things happen, I can say that it shines a negative light on all organizations. I can only speak for myself when I say things of that egregious nature just shouldn’t happen. Do I believe you should have to earn your way into an organization? Yes, I absolutely do. But I believe that brotherhood should be formed, lessons should be taught, bonds created, and a strong connected group of men/women should emerge ready to take on the world. This movie did not show that. It did not show the scholarship, the manly deeds, or the love for all mankind. For a brief moment we saw the pledges reaching out to alumni brothers who reminded them of the importance of the brotherhood, and how they will have these connections for life. I enjoyed that scene, but that was one of the only positives.

We must fight until Hell freezes over, and then fight on the ice
— Vertner Woodson Tandy

So, if you are Greek, want to be Greek, or non-Greek, I created a couple of rules/rebuttals for the movie. Enjoy!

  1. Joining an organization should never be about being more popular, getting girls, because your mom/dad joined, etc. If your reasons aren’t aligned with the principles, aims or mission of the organization, then you have no business trying to get down.
  2. Non Greeks, please do not view this an end all be all about Greek Life. As I stated earlier, I know some of the things in the movie do occur, but that doesn’t make them right. Some of these things also are highly unlikely. One of the Deans at your school is probably not going to have you spit lit in his office. And if he does please message me, because I want to be proven wrong. Homie clearly doesn’t care about losing his job. Don’t let this horrible betrayal of brotherhood deter you from finding out more about our illustrious organizations.
  3. There is a difference between pledging and hazing. I’ll repeat that so you can marinate on it…..THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PLEDGING AND HAZING.
  4. Greeks, take an honest look back or your process and the process your younger chapter members are going through? Does it reflect your organization well? Are they learning lessons? Are you a better person because of it? Can you still recall any of the information that you learned? Do you want to see your son/daughter go through the same exact process? If you can’t answer yes to all these questions then maybe something is wrong with your process. Instead of using the move to make us bicker, let’s use it to create positive change. Let’s showcase the great things our organizations do. Instead of complaining that the community doesn’t support your programs, why don’t we actually create programs that the community needs and go to them? We know what makes our orgs special, so let’s make sure we show everyone else. Whatever your organization is, your founders put their heart and souls into creating them. Please let their work not be in vain. As one of my founders, Big Brother Jewel Vertner Woodson Tandy, stated “we must fight until Hell freezes over, and then fight on the ice”.


Photo Credit: Danny Sellers