It isn’t easy for old dogs to learn new tricks, for new ways to be adopted by our elders, for CHANGE to be easily accepted.
As it is so in civil society so is it so in Freemasonry. Ask any Past Master. He will tell you that, “We always did it that way.”
So why should it be any different for Masonic Recognition? It took until 1989 for the first permanent Recognition of Prince Hall Freemasonry by the state of Connecticut. Many others followed yet some waited until after the turn of the century. Today, in 2016, there are still 9 states who refuse to recognize Prince Hall.
In Civil Society Integration and Civil Rights were a battle. Martin Luther King is proof of that. Civilly the war has been won, although there are still some skirmishes. Masonically many battles have been won, but the war has not yet been declared victorious. In civil society we have a Federal Government. In American Freemasonry we do not have a National Grand Lodge. The United States federal government was able to mandate integration by law backed by Federal troops. We cannot do that in Freemasonry.
No amount of force can change the hearts of men. And whether civilly or Masonically, we must admit that there are men (and women) who still do not want to change.
So those of us who really and truly believe that “All men are created equal… That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and that “it is the internal not the external qualifications which recommend a man to be made a Mason,” and that all Masons meet on the level, will need to become a light to the rest of the world.
We will need to let that light shine blazingly bright by our thoughts, words and actions.
And I am here to report on some bright light and to show how Brotherhood can really work.
Recognition has come hard for the state of Texas. The two Texas Grand Lodges signed a compact of mutual recognition on April 23, 2007 but without cross visitation. Inter-visitation was not approved until November and December of 2014. Even then it took time to fully implement.
In October of 2015 my Lodge, Pride of Mt. Pisgah No.135, Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas F & AM received Jewel P. Lightfoot No. 1283, Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM for a visitation.
In December of 2015 Jewel P. Lightfoot received Pride of Mt. Pisgah for a third degree, the raising of an African-American Mason.
The two Lodges have developed a sincere affection for each other. Brothers from Jewel P. Lightfoot even attended a Grand Raising at the Grand Session of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
But that’s not the end of the story.
In April of 2016 I visited Fort Worth Lodge No 148, Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM. My friend and Brother Hando Nahkur and I had longed to sit in Lodge together for years and finally it came to pass.
Fort Worth Lodge No 148 was very receptive to my visit and rolled out the red carpet. The Lodge served an excellent home cooked meal. Afterward, in Lodge, I presented a lecture on the history and traditions of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Near the end of the meeting Hando Nahkur rose and moved that the Lodge give me a fraternal donation. This from a Lodge and Brothers I had just met for the first time. Not only was I not a member of their Lodge and a complete stranger until then, but I didn’t even belong to their Grand Lodge.
Now that’s how you bury the hatchet and build bridges.
I returned to Fort Worth Lodge No 148 the following month and presented them with a gift, a 3rd Degree statue. You see, one act of Brotherly Love and Affection deserves another act of Brotherly Love and Affection.
Both Prince Hall and Mainstream Freemasons need to travel and seek out opportunities to build bridges and to spread the cement of Brotherly Love and Affection – that cement which unites us into one sacred band, or society of Friends and Brothers among whom no contention should ever exist…
We cannot change the world with a snap of our fingers. But what we can do is one Brother at a time, one Lodge at a time, build understanding and mutual admiration. By breaking bread together and participating in Lodge together we can remove the suspicions, the doubts and fears and demonstrate that we are ALL ONE.
By the exercise of Brotherly Love we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family – the high and low, rich and poor; who, as created by one Almighty Parent and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support, and protect each other. On this principle Masonry unites men of every country, sect, race, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.
A new era seems to have dawned on Freemasonry. The Gay Mason issue has caused some Grand Lodges to pull Recognition from others. The Grand Lodges that are practicing Freemasonry as it should be practiced are not letting those Grand Lodges get away with unMasonic conduct anymore…maybe. It’s just too bad that the those trying to do the right thing have not given equal weight to Black discrimination within Freemasonry. Again, we still have 9 Grand Lodges that do not Recognize Prince Hall.
Freemasonry is the one society or organization that can bring peace and harmony to a fractured, troubled world. It can do so by example and if its membership will truly practice the virtues of the Craft that has for centuries brought men together. Freemasonry, by nature, is not divisive as it brings together those with many differences into one Brotherhood of all men under the Fatherhood of God. It is not exclusive, but inclusive.
As Freemasons, we can, day by day, seek out others, reach out that hand and grasp the hand of a stranger, even a Brother that has not yet made our acquaintance or a Lodge that we have never been to. We cannot change the world, but we can one Brother at a time, one Lodge at a time make a better world.
What we can say here is that Texas Prince Hall Grand Master Wilbert M. Curtis, Pride of Mt. Pisgah Lodge No 135, Jewel P. Lightfoot Lodge No 1283 and Fort Worth Lodge No 148 deserve commendations for promoting peace and harmony and also bringing together those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.