Burning Sands, The Iota Way Is The Right and Just Way

Today’s is the initial blog posting for the Eastern Region of Iota Phi Theta® Fraternity, Inc. For the past two years, I have personally been working to develop my personal blog. However, this venture is quite exciting for I truly believe that information is power, knowledge is necessary, and provoked thought leads to a completeness in actions towards organizational uplift. Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. has a long history of engaging men towards betterment not only of self but also betterment in the process of united effort.

The twelve founders and the first line of 15 centaurs had a dream of building something different in the years of 1963-64. The campus of Morgan State College was immersed in change both civil, social, and economic for people of color in this country. While our elders were putting their lives on the lines to gaining full citizenship across the country. These 27 men saw the need to create something that would harken a new day in terms of organizational uplift. They each wanted to create an atmosphere where black men could define not only their blackness but also elevate their manhood without the elements of negative action that evolved around other fraternal organizations. These men created an organization that uplifted thought towards direct positive community action. These men also felt that what the other traditional fraternal black organizations focused on while building brotherhood actually demeaned the concept of building brotherhood by promoting physical and mental abuse during the pledge process.  

We as brothers tend to focus on the twelve founders when we discuss Iota Phi Theta’s beginnings. Yet, we must look beyond the initial meeting on the steps of Hurt Gymnasium of the twelve founders. You see the actual implementation of new philosophical thought, how they envisioned building the foundation for brotherhood, began with the first 15. That’s when Iota Phi Theta’s organizational roots were planted and the seeds of progress were initially fertilized. The process of pledging those 15 men laid down the traditions that still today embody the philosophies that are relevant today.

Actually, the process of indoctrination is even more relevant because the 12 founders sought a process of pledging that eliminated the act of physical confrontation as the way of becoming an Iota or Thetaman. Today’s pledge process across the country has demanded that organizations look away from negative physical interactions but developmental strengths towards heightening intellectual enlightenment. Our first 27 were indeed on the forefront of a new generation of black men who asked the question. Do I have to beat down my brother in order to build him up? So, while other Black Greek organizations felt that beating down to build up was a necessary element to bring one into the fold. Iota Phi Theta Fraternity was the very first black organization to say “I Am A Man, respect my manhood.” These 27 men were saying it not only to White America but also they were saying it to their Black brothers and sisters with an emphatic philosophy that said there had to be a better way.

There is a movie on the small screen that just was released in 2017 depicting the process of HELL WEEK during the pledge process of a fictional Black Greek fraternal organization. That movie, Burning Sands, shows how horrid the physical aspects of pledging can be. The abuse suffered during this final week of pledging resulted in the death of one of the pledgees. Rather than showing how to build brotherhood it revealed how abusive the process of pledging can be when it goes off kilter.

In 1963-1964 our first 27 saw how this process can evolve into what is shown in the movie. We as brothers should thank our lucky stars that our founders and the first 15 enlightened the pledge process with a new non-confrontational approach to making an Iota or Thetaman.  You see when honor our roots and traditions of pledging based on the first 27 we build on the original traditions that make Iota Phi Theta great and make Iota Phi Theta different.  We all know that we stress that we as brothers build traditions not rest upon them. Well, the traditions that our first 27 defined as it relates to how we develop and build brothers to become members of our unique organization is one tradition that we not only rest on but stand firmly for. It doesn’t take measuring how much pain you can take to be an Iota or Thetaman. The measurement of brotherhood is defined by the level of love each of us has for each other. So when you bring in new members to our organization we must honor the solid foundation of the process demanded by those who came before us.

Joseph Hall

Provoked Thoughts, 8350 Autumn Oaks Court, Chesapeake Beach, MD, 20732