September 6, 2022
BLACK PUBLIC MEDIA
By Leslie Fields-Cruz
It's Time to Prioritize the Hazing Problem
This summer, I spent a week visiting college campuses on the West Coast with my youngest child — a rising high school senior. Among the schools we visited was my alma mater, UC Berkeley. Trudging up and down the Berkeley campus hills, walking through buildings, and sitting near “The Wall” on Sproul Plaza, I was flooded with memories of my college experience: wandering the stacks of Doe & Moffit libraries, demanding my French professor raise my grade, taking my first ever African American film studies course with Dr. Johnson, sweating at parties in the Rochdale Village apartments, protesting on Sproul Plaza, and doing the one thing many people associate with the college experience, pledging a sorority — in my case, Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Photo of Leslie Fields-Cruz and daughter Maya Cruz by Maya Cruz
Recollections of my pledge experience are positive. I love and respect my line sisters and the other women who eventually became our sorors. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit there was a moment during those six pledge weeks when I questioned whether what my line sisters and I were going through was worth the price of “sisterhood.”
Hazing, Byron Hurt’s latest film, premieres on Independent Lens Sept. 12. If you are familiar with his other work (e.g., Beyond Beats & Rhymes, Soul Food Junkies, I Am A Man), you’re right to guess that this latest story has a personal connection. Hurt’s brilliance as a filmmaker is how he turns the highly personal into the universally relatable, expanding the subject matter to include the experiences of others, the research of scholars, and analyzing it from cultural, systemic, and historic perspectives.
Still from Hazing
So, when Hurt approached me with a request that BPM support Hazing during its research and development stage, I didn’t refuse. As an AKA, I know hazing is and has been a problem for many, many years. I also know the problem isn’t just with Black fraternities and sororities. It’s a problem for White Greek letter organizations, athletic teams, and many other clubs and institutions that require aspiring members to go through rites of passage in order to gain acceptance.
Audiences who haven’t seen Hazing, might think it exists only to air the dirty laundry of fraternities and sororities, marching bands and the military. I assure you, it does not. I won’t give away the story, but I urge you to watch it for yourself and then ask: Can’t sisterhood, brotherhood, and/or community be achieved without jeopardizing aspirants’ physical or mental health? Their lives? And as members who love these institutions and the good they do in society, shouldn’t keeping our pledgers safe be our highest priority?
For more hazing information visit:
The Anti-Hazing Coalition
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