IU students are a different brand

(U-WIRE) BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The smell of burning flesh and the idea of scorching skin might sound frightening to a majority of Greek-letter organizations.

But for most Phi Beta Sigma fraternity members, it is a part of life. They follow a long tradition, mostly of African-American fraternities, of getting branded. For the Phi Beta Sigma brothers, branding a “sigma” into their arms is a symbol of brotherhood.

“It is traditional, but not mandatory,” said senior Ramone Demming, a Phi Beta Sigma member.

Demming received his first brand in 1994 on his left arm. Since then he has received four more brands – two on his chest, one on the shoulder and one he did himself on his ankle. The one on his shoulder celebrated a new member.

“(I got a brand) at first out of pride, then, sort of like tattoos, they got a tad addictive,” Demming said.

Another member, junior Damien Piatt, also chose to get a brand. He was branded at a celebration after an initiation ceremony with 11 other Phi Beta Sigma members. He numbed his arm with ice, and the other members hit it, which he thought was the most painful part of the process. Then, a hot piece of metal in the shape of a sigma struck his skin.

“It was a hell of a bonding experience,” Piatt said.

The experience can be endured in various ways.

Professional branding artist Kent Fazekas, who works at Artistic Skin Design in Indianapolis, said the heat-and-drag method works more effectively than the heat-and-strike method.

In the heat-and-drag method, the brand is drawn on the skin using a stainless steel branding bit shaped like a pencil. The branding bit is heated to temperatures between 2,600 and 5,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the heat-and-strike method, the iron, shaped as the brand’s design, is pressed one time on the skin.

Sophomore Latasha Jordan was branded June 26, her initiation night into Zeta Beta Sigma.

“(I got the brand) as a permanent symbol of a very precious time period in my life,” Jordan said.

Three other Zeta Beta Sigma sisters also have brands. Jordan used a Z-shaped hanger that had been on a hot stove overnight.

Fazekas said he worries people who do their own brands at home might not use the necessary safety measures he practices.

Also, some might not know how hard to push the iron against the skin, burning fat tissue and possibly some of the muscle as well. This burning can lead to severe problems, he said. He also warned that alcohol does not sterilize the iron, and sharing branding metals can spread diseases.

-by Dana Snider, The Indiana Daily Student

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