"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Thursday, March 09, 2017

New Netflix Movie: 'Burning Sands'

You may have encountered these for sale online - wooden cricket bat-syle paddles with Masonic symbols, and even Prince Hall markings on them - and wondered why the heck someone would want such a thing. They are common items around college campuses, used in "Greek" fraternities, but certainly not something you should be finding in a Masonic lodge. True Masonic ceremonies are not in any way degrading or could be considered hazing in any way, shape, or form.

Well, an article popped up today and may be a little insight into the source of where and why there is sometimes a tradition of frat-style hazing in (hopefully) illegitimate, self-styled Masonic lodges. Netflix premieres a new film tomorrow about a black college fraternity, called Burning Sands. It portrays an African-American college freshman's rough journey to become a full-fledged member of 'Lambda Lambda Phi' at the fictional Frederick Douglass University.

From the review:
Gerard McMurray's complicated but utterly entertaining drama “Burning Sands,” which will debut on Netflix March 10th centers on the controversial “underground” frat hazing at an all-black college. That’s just the jumping off point.

At first glance one might ask “where is the African-American unity” but just like real life, you have to peer deeper and decide to listen and to hear the words being uttered by the central characters. Through this prism of the societal construct called fraternity, we see our history reflected in shattered shards.
The story opens as aspiring inductees are entering the dreaded Hell Week and being put through their paces by their future big brothers on the low-down since their fraternity has been banned due to hazing infractions in the recent past.

The screenplay by first-time screenwriters Christine Berg and director Gerard McMurray has a fearless, honest tone and does not flinch in demonstrating just how brutal some of the big brothers are in constantly roughing up the pledgees. Beating after beating, one young man is kicked off the line, leaving five aspirants to ponder their place in the fraternity and question brotherhood on a wider canvas. All this, mind you, while they struggle to maintain academic demands and their personal lives. (MORE HERE)
Almost makes me want to reactivate my Netflix account just to see how it's handled.

While no regular Masonic ritual is even remotely analogous to the kind of underground hazing depicted in the show, an interesting aspect of the film is the exploration of the reasons and continuing need for fraternalism, not only in the black community, but among all men. But it also is curious to note that television producers seem to be discovering fraternalism on a wider basis in dramatic fashion, instead of in parody. Last September, the mini-series Queen Sugar portrayed a Masonic funeral service. And in October, AMC announced development of a new series called Lodge 49 about a fictional Shrine-like fraternal lodge.

According to its early description, Lodge 49's premise:
 "centers on Dud, a deadbeat but charming ex-surfer who joins a fraternal order hoping to reclaim the simple, happy lifestyle he lost when his father died. Through the Lodge and his newfound connection with the other members, Dud will come to find the missing sense of purpose in his life and confront his deepest fears and greatest hopes... [It explores the idea that] life can be magical if you look at it from the right angle, what it means to be on the fringe, and the importance of community."

UPDATE 3/19/2017:

Since I first posted this entry, I've been told of an independent film released in 2016 called Goat that similarly examined the culture of brutal "underground hazing" in a white "greek" college fraternity, which may have perhaps inspired the creators of Burning Sands to explore the subject from the black fraternity side of the issue. Additionally, the new series has generated much online chatter about such practices in some fraternities - there's a good one on The Root website by Kasai Rex HERE.

Again I reiterate: legitimate Freemason lodges (especially the ones you will commonly hear of as being regular and recognized) do NOT engage in such practices. Masonic degrees are NEVER supposed to humiliate or punish or endanger our candidates. In fact, one of the first things you will be told upon entering the lodge for your first time is "Fear no danger." This isn't the time or place to drone on about origins and effects of rites of initiation, psychological preparation and transformation, debating bonds of fraternalism through shared experience vs. physical humiliation and adversity, etc., etc. But suffice it to say that Masonic degrees have their adopted roots in the oldest forms and traditions of hermeticism, not Boot Camp. And if a "Masonic" lodge asks you as a petitioner to sign a release or waiver form indemnifying them of all legal responsibility for your potential future injuries during your degrees, you should keep on hunting for a different lodge, unless that is REALLY the sort of experience you hope and expect to find. I usually don't like slinging around accusations in the nature of saying a Masonic lodge is "doing it wrong," but I sure as hell do in this type of scenario.

(Click to enlarge)


  1. degrading a man dose not make him a better man

  2. Why when y'all "mainstream" brothers see a paddle involving PHA, you guys actually think it's literal? No PHA lodge uses a paddle. As a Prince Hall Mason, I've visited numerous lodges and granted, some lodges I've visited owned a paddle, but it was for show only and to intimidate the candidate. Maybe they use those in clandestine lodges, but don't confuse it with ours. If you've never saw it used in a PHA lodge, don't assume. I've visited many "mainstream" lodges and some have had novelty goats. Does that mean you guys use those during ritual? No. When I asked about it, they just tell me the goat is for show only and it's to intimidate the candidates. You don't here PHA questioning if our mainstream brothers are using goats, so why question and take us literal when y'all see a paddle?

  3. Good post. Reminds me of a ball cap I saw a Prince Hall Shriner wearing over 24 years ago which said, "if it ain't rough, it ain't real"! Well, I certainly know now what he meant by that statement!-Smile- Matter of fact, I will be attending a Shrine meeting this afternoon.

    In my opinion, "Hot Sands, Cold Sands, and Burning Sands" are terms which properly belongs to the Mystic Shrine even though other outside Fraternal Orders may use them. On the flip side, for those with a strong stomach, there is a movie available on 'red box' entitled, "Goat".

    Goat (2016 film) by Andrew Neel, is a coming of age film about a white college Fraternity involving ritual, hell week, manhood, friendship, and brotherhood. It is an informative and interesting piece of cinema, but it can be a little ROUGH (smile) on the senses.

  4. I have occasionally joked before an initiation about "the goat". I think I'll stop now. I always tell initiates that there is nothing degrading and no physical punishment involved in the ceremonies, but continuing to use that "joke" does not make the ceremony any less frightening to a candidate and I'm really annoyed with myself for continuing to mention it.

    W.Bro Chris Hansen, Goliath Lodge #5595 UGLE, writing in a personal capacity.

  5. Thanks for the advice. I contacted my local lodge about becoming a brother. Is that how you can become a member? I'm currently living in Batavia, NY.

    1. That is certainly the most convenient, "local" way to do it. The other way - especially if you don't think you actually know any Masons to ask, contact the local Grand Lodge in your state (in the US). Do a Google search for "grand lodge of (your state name) freemasons" and it should pop up. If you are more interested in the more historically black influenced branch of the fraternity, search for "most worshipful prince hall grand lodge (your state)" and that should give you the link.

      Alternatively, while some of the links may be wrong now, there is a relatively recent list of both by state on Ed King's Masonic Info website at: http://www.masonicinfo.com/grandlodges.htm

  6. Thanks for the advice. I contacted my local lodge about becoming a brother today. Is that how someone becomes a member? I'm currently living in Batavia, NY.


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