In 2004, I was a "pledge". While I thought after a designated amount of time and some silly pledging activity I would later become a member of a prestigious sorority, circumstances said otherwise. I was just returning from a funeral in Las Vegas, my mind was still fresh from seeing her body and her face that didn't look like the sister I had known. I was tired and fragile, yet my desire to become a part of something that was said to propel and uplift me kept me going. I was excited, scared and anxious. There was no way of determining what would happen in the upcoming week. We purchased things, we removed our hair extensions and braids Our process had begun. Day 4 and I was already exhausted. My nerves were getting the best of me. I remembering vomiting once and thinking oh I am nervous. After the third time, I figured I should go to urgent care. Was this worth it?
As I returned from urgent care I thought about what kind of decisions I was making. I was tired, humiliated and discouraged. Becoming a member of the sorority was no longer an interest to me. I don't need to go through all of this just to say I am apart of something. So I quit.
Like me, there are young women and men longing to become a part of something greater. Some thing, some group a family that would help them later in life. I am not so sure they are or were aware of what they would have to encounter to prove they are worthy enough of membership.
This past Saturday I was given the opportunity to speak at the W.I.S.E. ( Will It Stop Ever) Anti- Hazing and Bullying Rally. The event was to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the death of two women who drowned while being hazed, Kristin High and Kenitha Saafir . The event featured several women who were hazed while "pledging" to a sorority. My heart dropped as I heard horror stories of women who were beaten and abused just to become apart of an organization that ironically promotes sisterhood. Now what part of sisterhood includes with hazing?
The most heart wrenching testimony came from the son of the deceased Kristin High. Skyler, her son wrote a letter to his mother. He told her all about the activities he is involved in. As I sat in my seat I could only pray that this little boy did not break down into tears. For the majority of his letter, he read with poise and laughter. It wasn't until the got to the end that it became emotional Not a dry eye in the place. Hearing him tell about all the birthdays he wished his mom could have been there for broke my heart. Not only did i feel bad for him but i felt bad for every loved one who lost someone dear to them just because they wanted to become a member of a historical, prestigious sorority or fraternity. The death of Kristin, Kenitha and anyone else who has lost their lives to hazing not only effects their immediate family but it effects the entire community. Something must be done.
Here is my earnest plea:
There must be an end to hazing and bullying across the nation. One should never have to risk their life just to become initiated into a group. More so these groups should be held accountable for upholding their own standards of a being a "non hazing" organization. This is not a bash against sororities and fraternities, this is a stand against hazing and bullying. This is a stand against the breaking down of an individual mentally physically and emotionally to prove they are worth to become a part of an organization. This is a plea to those that may or may not know the harm caused by hazing and bullying. According to Dr. Elizabeth Allen at Alfred University 1.5 million high school students are hazed every year, and 25% of them were first hazed before the age of 13. According to a study conducted by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, 64 percent of participants in club sports, 56 percent of participants in performing-arts groups, and 28 percent of participants in academic organizations were subjected to hazing.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) found that 75 percent of college athletes were involved with hazing. Forget the "rites of passage" mentality. This has go to stop. We are loosing people too soon all because in some way they just want to belong. Is it worth it? No, it is not! To those who have participated in hazing and are planning to continue hazing individuals think about the harm you are doing to a person, not only physically but emotionally. You are choosing to harm out of tradition but think about the long lasting impact hazing and bullying has on a person. Think about the daughter, mother or sister you putting your hands on. Think about the son or father you are impacting. Is it worth it?
This is my plea! Whomever you are, whatever capacity you are in, STOP HAZING, STOP BULLYING. Let's make people aware of what's been going on for years and what will continue if we don't do what we can do to end it. Don't be afraid to speak up and take a stand against it. It has got to end!