There is a hot new book out here on the Prince Hall scene, THE LOST EMPIRE, Black Freemasonry In The Old West (1867-1906) by Brother James R. Morgan III. This book tells the history of African American Freemasonry in the Old West as seen through the lens of Captain William D. Matthews and the King Solomon Grand Lodge of Kansas.
Morgan is The Grand Historian for the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia and an active and experienced genealogist among many other glowing accolades.
He cut his teeth doing research for two other distinguished D.C. Masons and authors, Alton Roundtree and Tehuti Evans.
The book came about when fellow genealogist Denessia Swanegan asked Morgan to help her in her ancestral research and Morgan began a research project which became an article which became a Research Paper which morphed into a full-blown book. Morgan said that once he started down this path the research information just kept coming and coming until a book more or less had to be written.
Very little had been written about Black Freemasonry West of the Mississippi River in the Wild West years. This is the first work that ties many separate facts together into a cohesive whole so that a complete story could be told. The Lost Empire has much to say about Black Freemasonry’s National Grand Lodge or National Compact. Although I won’t reveal the details so as to not spoil the story, one interesting tidbit from James Morgan really surprised me. Morgan said that one of the big reasons that the National Grand Lodge was formed was because many bogus and clandestine Black Lodges and Grand Lodges were spreading like wildfire eventually far outnumbering those Regular Grand Lodges charted by the Grand Lodge of England and tracing their heritage back to African Lodge No 459.
Into the fray charged this swashbuckling, charismatic character named Captain William D. Mathews and his King Solomon Compact Grand Lodge of Kansas. But that is all we are going to tell you. Buy the book.
The Lost Empire is a well written well researched book (It has 106 pages of Appendixes) that fills a void in hitherto unknown and unpublicized Black Masonic activity in this part of the country in the Wild, Wild West era woven into a complete story. It is as much a history book as it is a Masonic book. That makes it a must for your Historical and Masonic Library.
Intervisitation with The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas has just been approved by the Grand Lodge of Texas on Saturday December 6, 2014 at 12 Noon. The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas approved the same in its mid-winter Grand Session in November. The two Grand Lodges have been under mutual recognition without visitation for a number of years. Now that cross visitation has been approved by both parties it is a reality.
The two Texas Grand Lodges signed a compact of mutual recognition on April 23, 2007 but without cross visitation. So for the past seven years Freemasons from one Grand Lodge could not attend the Communications of the other Grand Lodge.
This is all water over the dam now. A new day has dawned and a new era of brotherly love and affection has begun.
Some people attain the level of leadership just because they have been around a long time. Some people get to be “head honcho” because they are everybody’s friend and nobody’s enemy. Still others have risen to the top through wheeling and dealing and doing favors expecting favors in return.
Such leaders, after attaining power, rarely ruffle any feathers. They go along to get along. They do things the way they have always been done. They refuse to push people to greater heights or hold anybody accountable for anything. They revel in their honors but do little to further their organization.
None of this describes R. Lucille Samuel, Grand Princess Captain Lone Star Grand Guild of Texas PHA. Samuel is far from a “Do Nothing” leader. Rather she is the type that might say, “Let the chips fall where they may but we are moving forward embracing change.”
You will understand where she is coming from and what type of a leader that she is when you read her recent address to the Grand Guild, delivered at her Grand Session and in conjunction with the Grand Sessions of all the York Rite Bodies of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Of Texas.
Read the words of a true leader:
2013 has been an awesome year for the Grand Guild. We have had very successful Regional Trainings and our membership continues to excel.
So where do we go from HERE?
For wrath killeth the foolish man and envy slayeth the silly one.
We need to change our organizational outlook. We have no peripheral vision. Most of us can only see straight forward and any type of change is out of the question. You cannot be afraid of failure. Your success is not measured by the number of times you fall but upon the way you handle recovery. It is not how high you climb but how you got there. You must have the courage to take risks.
You cannot lead where you don’t go and you can’t teach what you don’t know. The key to being a successful leader is earning respect not because of your Title or position. People who work together will ALWAYS WIN!
You cannot lead an organization if you are afraid of change or what other people will think. You have to realize that people will always talk especially those that envy you. Unfortunately we don’t like to see others succeed. Instead of giving encouraging words of advice or wisdom we would rather watch others fail. You do realize that when the Leader fails so does the organization. A lot of times you will hear the phrase well THEY said. My interpretation of that is as follows.
The letters in THEY stand for: – T for Tongue which is a very sharp weapon used against others. H stands for Hateful things that people will do to see you Fail. E stands for ENVY of those that feel you are a threat to them. They aren’t happy so they feel that no one else should be happy. Y stands for YOU because THEY never said anything YOU did.
We cannot continue to use the same strategies that our Ancestors used. It may have worked great for them in their time but times have definitely changed, The phrase, “Well that is how we have always done it,” has to GO! If we wish to attract members into our organizations that are talented and well educated a Change must come. You cannot run a well oiled machine on tap water. There is no reason we should not have the largest membership Rolls in the world. What makes any other organization better than the Prince Hall Masonic Family?
I was told a successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others have thrown at him. Well we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings because they have been in the Order since the Last Supper. Their wisdom is always welcome. But we cannot continue to tip toe around others feelings. The ship needs to sail and those who can’t swim need to stay on the shore.
We are also afraid to share knowledge with others in fear of them replacing us. Knowledge is power and should not be used as a weapon. A great leader surrounds themselves with people that have talents and ideas which make the organization shine. It is a very selfish person that allows their personal gain to deter progress. Remember that not all people in charge are leaders. Sometimes it is by virtue of them being in the right place at the right time or there was no one else at the time available.
So what do we do to change that? Stop nominating your friends instead of the qualified person. Stop trying to run the Organization alone. We know you want all the credit and glory. Share your knowledge and information to all. Tomorrow is promised to no one. There should never be a time when one person steps out of a position and someone else cannot step in. When your organization is losing more members than receiving new members that is a sign. When your Annual Conference Registration continues to decline Houston we have serious problem!
We need to make a change. This is a volunteer organization and people will not continue to spend money on Registration and travel to attend meetings that continue to hold the same old programs. When you have Officers that do absolutely nothing during the Year and you continue to keep them in office people will not support you. It is so petty of you to threaten people or hold grudges against them just because they run for office against you. You are not doing anything so get out of the way! There is no motivation. When your Annual Session minutes state the same business every year and the only thing that changes is the DATE you are in trouble.
If we do not make a change the Prince Hall Family will dissipate into thin air. All of the hard work our Trail Blazers accomplished will be in vain.
We have to take charge now and work TOGETHER. Working against each other we will not survive. We have to have the Wisdom to know that Music means nothing if the audience is DEAF! We cannot go back and change the past but we can start today by making a new beginning and become the WINNING TEAM!
Holding grudges against someone for something that happened years ago will not solve anything either. Most of you don’t even remember why you are angry anyway. We are not here to become a Social Club but to conduct the business of this Great Order.
People may forget what you said to them but they will never forget how you treated them.
Remember the pessimist sees the difficulty in every situation and the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Be an Optimist!
Proverbs 14:33 Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding; but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.
We will never have peace if we never let go of wanting to change the past and controlling the future. You will never be successful if you have to always ask “What’s In It For Me”?
In closing I ask that we all remember “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results and not attributes.
I will continue to lead BY THE CROSS,
R. Lucille Samuel
Grand Princess Captain
Lone Star Grand Guild of Texas PHA
Heroines of the Templars Crusade
International Grand Senior Shepherdess
International Grand Deputy of Texas
International Grand Court of Cyrene Crusaders
“BRING ONE TEACH TWO”
The Beehive is proud to present an article from Brother Samuel L. Parker, Sr. of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Of California. Prince Hall Freemasonry is blossoming with thinkers, writers and reformers who want to bring to the Fraternity an intellectual involvement that can only bring about a new renaissance.
Brother Parker is addressing the concept of religious toleration within the Prince Hall family. He makes a strong point that Masonic Universalism is dependent on elimination of sectarian religious practices in the Fraternity. We would make the same case for partisan politics.
In “Ruling and Decision #3” the Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Florida, on November 28th, 2012, ruled and decided that Paganism, Wiccan and Odinism, Agnosticism, and Gnosticism beliefs and/or practices were NOT compatible with Freemasonry. Based on his conclusions, the Grand Master directed that … “any member of the Craft that professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion… On May 28th, 2013, it is reported that the Grand Lodge of Florida voted to rescind the Grand Masters’ Ruling and Decision.
After reading of the policy reversal in Florida, I began hopefully envisioning a room full of Prince Hall Masons exercising that same manly consciousness and mustering the fortitude to examine the religious understandings and policies of (even) a Grand Master, and say “No” to a policies and practices which are not consistent with morally correct Masonic values, laws, and traditions. Each of us is, faithfully obliged in the dignity of the character of that celebrated artist, to faithfully discharge that duty to carefully preserve, never suffer the infringement of, nor countenance a deviation from, the Landmarks of our Order – by Grand Masters or anyone else.
I am hopeful that, in light of the reversal of the Grand Master’s policy in Florida, that we members of Prince Hall Masonic bodies seize upon a learning opportunity and consider our policies and practices regarding sectarian religious perspectives and practices (including learning what sectarian practices are, and looking for ways to determine whether these practices exist in our lodges and grand lodge events).
As one example, in PHA lodges and grand lodges, you will invariably (to my knowledge) find the Holy Bible on the altar of open lodges as an “indispensable part of the furniture of every Lodge.” To be clear, I am suggesting that the Holy Bible is not on the altars of Prince Hall Lodges as “a representation of” or “an example” of “a” “Book of the Law.” In practice and unofficial policy (even perhaps “official” in some jurisdictions), the Holy Bible sits on the altars of Prince Hall Lodges as “The” “Book of the Law.” Accordingly, most (are taught and) would believe that the lodges are complying with the 21st Landmark of the Order, when, in fact, they are violating the Landmark.
In a Masonic setting, viewing the Holy Bible as “The Book of the Law” fosters mis-education and mis-informing candidates and Masons that Masonry is a “Christian organization.” When candidates and Masons understand that Landmark 21 requires “…that “a” “Book of the Law” shall constitute an indispensable part of the furniture of every Lodge…” they may then view the Holy Bible on the altar as “a” (one of many) representation(s) of a Book of the Law. Policies and practices that insist on having “only the Holy Bible” open on the altars of working lodges creates the (easily correctable) appearance of hypocrisy between the Landmarks of the Order and the policies or practices of our Lodges and Grand Lodges. The appearance can be easily corrected by displaying other examples of a “Book of the Law.”
If you are having trouble thinking of a valid and appropriate example of a Masonically-correct Book of the Law, you are probably an example of a “victim” of the “Christian organization doctrine/perspective.” There is relief available to you, thru Masonic education. The Lodge is not a church.
The significance of understanding that Masonry requires “a” Book of the Law on the altars of open lodges could present teaching moments when candidates and Masons find various Revealed Books of the Sacred Law on the altars of open lodges. The practice of putting other Books of Law on the altar (as equal representatives of the principle of revealed texts), might hint to and suggest religious tolerance. It might also remove a peg in the argument that Masonry is a Christian organization. Perhaps it might even enable investigating committees to give favorable reports on candidates who are not religiously persuaded by the book that is “always” on the altar of the lodge. In the long run, some may even discover that there is a distinction between Landmark 21’s “Book of the Law” and the Holy Bible.
I am not averse to a Holy Bible being placed on the Masonic altar “as an example or representation” of “the” Volume of Sacred Law. I am opposed to a Holy Bible being placed on the Masonic altar as “THE” (sole and exclusive) “Volume of Sacred Law.” There is a great difference.
If you think it is a trivial matter and just a semantical equivocation, ask your Worshipful Master or Grand Master to place (and leave open) ANY other Volume of Sacred Law. (Do not try this if you are not prepared for a backlash.)
Masonic universality is the principle that should govern the practices in our lodges – not the values, practices, and incongruent interests of any particular church doctrines. Masonry is not an extension of a single church doctrine. Christian Lodges, Muslim Lodges, Catholic Lodges, etc. should be oxymorons – from a Masonic perspective. The results of too many uncontested years of tolerating, permitting, and advocating a false perspective (that Masonry is founded on Christian principles and based on the Holy Bible) is divisive and has led to too many Masons and potential Masons being the victims of this mis-education and religious intolerance.
African American Freemasonry In The State Of New York 1812-2012
By Ezekiel M.Bey
A Review by: Wor. Bro. Frederic L. Milliken
Talented Prince Hall Masonic authors and writers are not as plentiful as grapes on the vine. So when one comes along we need to take notice and pay close attention to his works. Such a man is Ezekiel M. Bey whose latest book is “The Hour Glass, African American Freemasonry In The State Of New York 1812-2012.”The Hour Glass records the sands of time in the life of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, the great men therein who shaped the world to come and the part Bey has played and continues to play in the development of Prince Hall Freemasonry in New York and the nation.
Ezekiel Bey is a writer, a Historian and a poet all rolled into one. He combines that unusual dual talent of being a great researcher and historian and a great writer at the same time. Bey is no esoteric closet intellectual, however. He is a Past Master and has served on the Grand Lodge Committee on Works & Lecture, the Committee on Masonic Education where he spent some time as Secretary and the office of Grand Historian from 2006-20011. He is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and has spent 10 years on its Commission on Bogus Masonry much of that time as its Deputy Director. At the same time he has served as editor in chief of his Grand Lodge’s publication, The Sentinel until 2008.
One of Bey’s pride and joys is the nationwide E-Group Blue Lite which he founded. A Prince Hall discussion and educational undertaking it has blossomed into one of the most active gatherings of Masons on the Internet. Recently he has added the Prince Hall Research & Information site Blue- Lite.com.
Ezekiel M. Bey
Ezekiel Bey has paid his dues. Now all that blood, sweat and tears – that hard work and dedication and honing of skills – has culminated in a fascinating work of Masonic history, The Hour Glass.
The Hour Glass begins where every other Prince Hall Masonic book doesn’t, with the Haitian Revolution, the revolt of African American slaves from 1791-1804. The connection here is by way of Freemason Jean Pierre Boyer who was to become the second President of Haiti. Sometime during this conflict when the US and France were fighting the Franco-American War he, and all the others on his French vessel, was captured by the American war ship Trumball and brought back to Connecticut as a prisoner of war. Discovering him to be a Mason they gave him a modem of freedom and then sent him to Pennsylvania where he was ultimately set free. Boyer who attended some Lodges while he was in Pennsylvania seems to have had a profound effect on all he came in contact with as New York’s first African American Lodge, African Lodge #459 New York chartered by African Lodge #459 Boston in 1812 soon changed its name to Boyer Lodge #1. After assuming the Presidency of Haiti Boyer welcomed a migration of freed Black Americans to his country.
Bey then takes us through the Underground Railroad and the part that early New York African American Freemasons played in that historical time after which there is a detailed account of the false information that the first African American Grand Lodge in New York was Boyer Grand Lodge supposedly formed in 1845. Upon due research Bey confirms that the first African American Grand Lodge in New York was The United Grand Lodge of the State of New York formed in 1848 which later changed its name to The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the State of New York.
Next comes the painful experience of the National Grand Lodge or Compact as it was called. It was extremely stressful for New York as the United Grand Lodge of the State of New York never joined the Compact and its failure to do so resulted in the Compact attempting to expel the United Grand Lodge. Within Prince Hall Freemasonry the whole National Grand Lodge episode is a sore that will not heal. Remnants of the National Compact remain today but they are clandestine as many would say they always have been. While Mainstream Masonry also flirted with a National Grand Lodge at the same time it never pulled the trigger. Bey has contended that the whole National venture was illegal and he takes the reader through the steps of how this all came about. The documentation he provides on the history of New York African American Freemasonry at this time and New York’s involvement with the Compact is outstanding. Any historian who would like to have a better understanding of this issue should refer to The Hour Glass.
What follows is a wealth of information on clandestine African American Freemasonry in New York. Bey takes us through the Committee on Clandestine Masonry and The Legal Committee reports at Grand Lodge Sessions 1954-1969. We learn who the players are, the measures taken by the MWPHGLNY to combat bogus Freemasonry and even about a court case filed against two bogus New York Masonic Grand Lodges.
From the 1962 report of the Legal Committee to the Grand Lodge:
Litigation was commenced against two of these spurious organizations in New York State about three years ago. In November of 1961, there was a trial involving your Grand Lodge and one of these spurious organizations. In January of this year, injunctive relief was secured against this organization known as the Supreme Council of the United States of the Sovereign Grand Inspectors General of the 33rd and Last Degree A.A. Scottish Rite. This was the first case of its kind in the State of New York, in which injunctive relief was granted to a Masonic organization, giving it the right to put the spurious organization out of business. Moreover, the decision specifically stated that Prince Hall Masonry was legitimate and that it had a prior or better right to practice Masonry as against the organization which was enjoined. Your Legal Committee reports that this organization is now out of business.
Bey has continued in the footsteps of Harry A Williamson and Joseph Walkes in association with the Phylaxis Society in educating the Craft and those seeking membership about the evils of Bogus Freemasonry. This remains a continuing battle against ignorance. The Hour Glass exposes each and every one of these clandestine organizations, names names, dates and places, for all to see.
No story would be complete without heroes. Bey, in addition to his mentor Joseph Walkes, chronicles the lives and contributions to Prince Hall Freemasonry of RW Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, Harry A Williamson and S. David Bailey.
Schomburg, a native of Puerto Rico, was a promoter of Spanish speaking Lodges within Prince Hall New York. He was a researcher, historian, writer and accumulator of many Masonic books and manuscripts. In 1911 with John A. Bruce he formed the Negro Society for Research. Schomburg was elected Grand Secretary in 1918 and served in that position through 1926.
Bey tells us:
Schomburg saved every bit of information that he could get his hands on and built an archive in which he donated to public libraries. He is the reason that today Freemasonry and the black struggle in America have a huge section in the New York City Public Library in Harlem. This spirit of saving information for our future influenced his good friend and Brother, R.W. Harry A. Williamson, Grand Historian of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York. It was Arthur Schomburg who encouraged Williamson to place his collection of over 800 books, manuscripts, photographs, periodicals, pamphlets, and scrapbooks in the N.Y.C. Public Library’s Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints.
By the year 1925, Schomburg had acquired over 5,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts, etchings and many other items. When the Division of Negro Literature opened in the New York City Public Library on 135th Street in Harlem, Schomburg sold his collection for $10,000 to the Carnegie Corporation to be placed in the new library. Schomburg later became curator for the library in 1932 in the Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints. In memory of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the New York City Public Library in Harlem was renamed in 1973, “The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture”.
Another giant of Prince Hall New York that Bey writes about was Harry A Williamson. Grand Historian from 1911 through 1924 Williamson held many Grand Lodge offices including Senior Grand Warden and Deputy Grand Master and chaired many Grand Lodge Committees. He was a prolific writer and was an early crusader against Bogus Freemasonry in the state of New York.
The third legend from Prince Hall New York was S. David Bailey an accomplished jazz percussionist. Bey tells us that he had:
collaborations with most of the Ellington Alumni, such as Mercer Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Ben Webster, “Shorty” Baker, and Al Sears. David Bailey also played with Billy Taylor, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Miles Davis, Chris Conner, Billie Holiday, Marian McPartland, Lucky Thompson, Lena Horn, Harry Bellefonte and the Gerry Mulligan Band(s) for 13 years until 1968 when he left to join the newly formed “Jazztet” featuring Art Farmer, Benny Golson,
But Bailey had another love – flying. Again we learn from Bey:
From 1968 to 1973, David worked with famed criminal attorney F. Lee Bailey as Vice President of Marshfield Aviation in Marshfield Airport, Massachusetts, 20 miles south of Boston. As Chief Pilot and flight instructor, and the attorney’s personal pilot, David flew the business Learjet in and out of Logan International Airport in Boston. Dave was also a Designated Pilot Examiner for the FAA in Boston as he was in New York. David enjoyed a good professional relationship and warm friendship with F. Lee Bailey.
But in a strange twist of career paths Bailey returned to his first love when he became Executive Director of Jazzmobile.
In Prince Hall Freemasonry Bailey became a District Deputy and his efforts in Masonic Instruction and Masonic Education became renowned. He headed up the first Grand Lodge Committee on Education and now 86 years old he can look back upon an illustrious Masonic career of 60 years.
It is difficult to know where you are going unless you know where you have been. The Hour Glass will prove to be a most valuable work for Prince Hall New York Masons to remember where they have been and to honor and treasure the memories of those who have gone before them.
It is vitally imperative that within the Craft records and archives are kept to show a clear path of what Freemasonry has stood for and what it has withstood throughout its history. Ezekiel Bey has been meticulous and detailed in his research for this book. The Hour Glass is both interesting and informative.
Not shy in expressing himself, Bey writes with a passion that jumps out at you from the pages of his book. His love for the Craft comes through loud and clear.
Moreover, Bey blazes a trail that other Prince Hall Grand Lodges should take. A chronicling of the history of any Grand Lodge casts in stone what defines that Masonic community and it is by such a work as this that a Grand Lodge can tackle the future with a mission statement in hand.
This is a monumental work that will be on every library shelf and in many a Mason’s bookcase. It should be in yours also.
Two hundred thirty seven years ago today, on March 6, 1775, Prince Hall, Cryrus Jonbus, Buestop Slinger, Prince Rees, John Carter, Peter Freeman, Benjamin Tiler, Cuff Bufform, Thomas Sanderson, Prince Taylor, Cato Spears, Boston Smith, Peter Best, Forten Howard and Richard Tilly were made Master Masons in a British Army Lodge of Irish register. The Lodge gave them the privilege of meeting, marching in procession, and burying their dead, but not conferring degrees. In March, 1784, Brother Hall petitioned the Grand Lodge of England for a charter which was issued September 29, 1784, but was not delivered until April 29, 1787, establishing African Lodge 459 on May 6, 1787. Four years later, on June 24, 1791, the African Grand Lodge was formed with Prince Hall as Grand Master. MWB Hall died December 7, 1807. Subsequently, in his honor, the Lodge became M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge, F&AM, of Massachusetts. Today, the great majority of US state Grand Lodges as well as the Grand Lodge of England and many international Grand Lodges recognize Prince Hall Lodges.
It may seem strange to some because of the fierce determination for the astute ,mason of darker persuasion to be identified, not just as a mason, but as a Prince Hall Mason. There is a difference in “masons.” Because of the trials and tribulations that we, as Prince Hall Masons have endured, it is with a great sense of pride to be privileged to wear the name. It is mute and vocal testimony to the fact that, “Prince Hall, we’re still here!”
A lot of things are not appreciated in life, sometimes because the method used in gaining the honor, the privilege, or the tangible product, is not one where it called for a sacrifice of some sort. Not so with Prince Hall Masons, for we have, “been up the creek, and down the river.” The Prince Hall Mason can truly say, “I have often been tried, but never denied…” The background, the legacies, the involvement of the Prince Hall Masons in the growth of the meaningful things that were gained in the Black Experience and the Black Church, speak louder than the negative reports that sometimes seep into our midst. Prince Hall Masons have many things to be proud of, because of the sacrifices made by those brothers and sisters in by-gone years. I for one do appreciate the many years of their sacrificial efforts.
Because of its beautiful history, Prince Hall Masons have come under attack, by word and deed. There have been court cases, negative media coverage, and by and large, an exclusion from the pages of history found in libraries or in private collections, sorry to say. However, little by little, the story is being told of the many worthwhile things that have been done in the name of human endeavors by those brethren of the craft. Because of its beautiful history, Prince Hall Masons have had to endure many groups professing to be “masons.” Some even carry the name, “Prince Hall Mason,” but the result is not the same. It is said that “Imitation is the highest form of flattery” or something to that order. However, when the term, “mason” is used, everyone should be aware that it does not always mean, “Prince Hall Mason” and there is a difference.
When one considers Prince Hall, one can readily understand why there would be attempts at duplicating the fraternity that bears his name. It is a proud name, one that can stand up to the criticisms that may come from opponents; one that can, because of the many brothers and sisters that wear the name, withstand the court cases and innuendos of smaller minds. Prince Hall was a man that American History can be proud of, even though some today may feel threatened by the love some members have for their order
Freemasonry is a system of morality, a system that is shared between members of the Masonic Family, and then is shared with the community at large. It is not a secret system, for the lessons come from the Holy Bible, the Holy Koran, the Vegas, and many other religious books found wherever there is a system of religious ideals. Because of the Judeao-Christian principles practiced by the bulk of the Prince Hall membership, it stands to reason the main teachings regarding Freemasonry would come from the Holy Bible.
Prince Hall may not have foreseen the results of his endeavor way back in 1775 when he and 14 other Blacks were initiated into the Masonic Order. He may not have foreseen the many hundreds of thousands of members world-wide that we see today. But Prince Hall did believe in a God that “sits high” and looks low.” That belief was fostered down through many generations of Afro-Americans, and now includes members of all racial persuasions. It is a dream come true for anyone that dared to dream in 1775. We cannot say that those members did dream in 1775, but I am sure that the same God that blessed their endeavors back then is still in the blessing business, for we are the recipients of His grace and goodness. Our very survival and presence bear witness to that.
It was not in man’s cards that we be here, for the mason of old had to “be tried, sometimes denied, but stood ready to be tried again.” Those days of physical opposition are gone now. The days of being in court, defending your right to be called Prince Hall Masons, are now history. The blood that was shed for the right that was taken for granted by all other Americans, shall not be in vain, and we revere our dead members, we celebrate the birth of our founder and benefactor, Prince Hall, the man, the mason, the patriot, the preacher! We’re still here, Prince Hall! (1)
The Bee Hive is indebted to Brother Antonio Caffey, PM St. Mark’s Lodge No. 7, Columbus, OH for an excellent video and for The Phylaxis Society and The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Of Arkansas for text.
Stories of Prince Hall & Mainstream interaction are popping out everywhere. And the beautiful aspect of it all is that there is great appreciation and joy at this intermingling. Brotherly love and affection prevail and every moral and social virtue cements Brothers of different traditions.
The Beehive reported recently the story of the Mainstream Grand Master of Michigan visiting a Prince Hall Lodge with many of his Michigan Brethren in “Bridging The Gap.” The latest example of this joyous cross visitation comes from a personal friend, Brother Tofique Fatehi from Mumbai, India. Brother Fatehi and I met on the Global Fraternal Network in the late 90s. Soon, thereafter, Brother Fatehi journeyed to Massachusetts to visit his son who is living here. When an opportunity to see the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team perform in Southern Maine arose, Tofique took the opportunity to accompany us and see US Mainstream Masonry.
Tofique returned this fall for another family visit and got in touch with me to see about visiting a Prince Hall Lodge in Massachusetts. I turned him over to the capable hands of Worshipful Jim Bennette of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, another good friend who has a strong relationship with Massachusetts Prince Hall.
Tofique reports in the Global Fraternal Network newsletter:
While in Massachusetts I visited a PH Lodge in Boston. Bro. Fred Milliken (now in Texas) arranged for my introductions. I attended the Widow Son Lodge in Dorchester (South Boston).
L to R – SW Otis Sams, WM Dexter McKenzie, Bro. Tofique Fatehi, JW Linus Eyong
Tofique reports that they rolled out the red carpet for him and he had a great time and was impressed by their ritual & knowledge.
All this goes to show that it is time now for all the old barriers to be taken down. We are in the second decade of the 21st century and the manner in which different races and cultures have heretofore interacted is a thing of the past. The future brings us all closer together in brotherly love and affection.
So let us all do our part to see that the state of Freemasonry in the world opens up into a celebration of its diversity and a new age of the expression of what Freemasonry truly exemplifies.
I recently returned from the 138th Grand Session of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas which was held from February 25-28, 2010 in Pine Bluff. It was a great time with wonderful brotherhood marred by only one disappointing incident not of the making of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas.
One of the items on the agenda of business was to announce and explain the Arkansas Freemason auto license plate as created by Prince Hall Arkansas. This was a project that had been worked on for more than a year and was completed just a few months ago finally receiving state approval. It was noted that there seemed to be an inordinate amount of roadblocks in the path of the completion of this project. But Arkansas Brother Anthony Johnson, who headed the project, continually redid what was rejected in the submission of paperwork. He dotted every I and crossed every T. A few months before Grand Session the Grand Lodge received notification that the Freemason license plate had gone through and was approved. The Grand Lodge session afforded an opportunity for an announcement and explanation of this program.
Briefly stated, the Arkansas Masonic license plate consists of the Square and Compasses and the word “Freemason” at the very bottom of the plate. It is a generic Masonic plate neither mentioning Prince Hall nor Mainstream Masonry. However, a portion of the sale from each license plate is earned by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
Now no one expected a round of applause from the Mainstream Grand Lodge of Arkansas. The fact that Prince Hall thought of the project first and had the perseverance to see its adoption through the many hurdles placed in its path is a credit to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. A silent boycott by Mainstream would have been disappointing but not unexpected. However, an open, loud denunciation of Prince Hall and the Freemason license plate is most distressing and uncalled for.
Presented below is the letter from the Mainstream Grand Master of Arkansas with its Seal and his signature to all his chartered Lodges. All or portions of this ruling appeared on many Mainstream Arkansas constituent Lodges’ websites viewable by the public which is why I say this was an open denunciation.
On the chance that the inserted letter is nor fully readable I will retype it and print it here below:
Dear Brother Secretary,
I am sending this letter to your lodge in the hope of heading off a possible problem which has been caused by the State Revenue Department. It has been brought to my attention that the state has come out with with a Freemason license plate. The best I can find out is that this license plate originates from the Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons and part of the money derived form (from) the sale of these license plates goes to a charity sponsored by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
After several phone calls to ascertain what the procedure was for obtaining these plates; I came to the conclusion that the method of screening individuals, to see if they were eligible to purchase the plates was not sufficient to ensure that our members could not purchase them. We have laws which strictly prohibit communication and Masonic intercourse with clandestine lodges and members of clandestine lodges. It is my opinion as your Grand Master that the purchase of these license plates would be in contradiction to our laws. Thus I am directing that no member of a subordinate lodge under the jurisdiction of the M.W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas purchase the license plates.
I am sending your lodge this letter to be read at your next stated communication. I am further directing that the Worshipful Master appoint a phone committee to contact every member of your lodge, who is an Arkansas resident, or that a letter be sent out to the same; informing them that they are not to purchase one of these license plates.
I appreciate your attention to this serious problem and will thank you in advance for your efforts to help ensure that our members are informed and do not inadvertently violate our Masonic law.
Ronald Hedge, Grand Master
The first thing I expect from a Grand Master is that he have a credible understanding of the terms he uses. The term clandestine refers to pedigree. As in the case of a dog the question would be are you AKC registered and approved? In Masonry it refers to whether you were properly chartered. The fact that all Prince Hall Grand Lodges can trace their lineage back to The Grand Lodge of England’s chartering of African Lodge #459 either directly or indirectly rules out the possibility that Prince Hall is clandestine. Neither is Prince Hall irregular. Every recognized Masonic authority, even Albert Pike, has stated that Prince Hall practices regular Freemasonry and follows the Landmarks.
Furthermore a license plate cannot be clandestine. It is an inanimate object.
There is nothing more common within the ranks of Freemasonry than the misuse of the word communication. The word communication as is commonly applied in Freemasonry denotes a tyled Lodge meeting not a conversation. So in most jurisdictions it is perfectly lawful to discuss Freemasonry, excluding the signs, tokens , grips, words and obligations, with Freemasons from another jurisdiction or another obedience. The Grand Master knows this for later in his letter he talks about reading this information “at your next stated communication.”
However what is most distressing is the prohibition against Masonic discourse. I know that some Grand Lodges on both sides have this ruling yet most carry its application to an absurd degree. If an Arkansas Mainstream Mason meets an Arkansas Prince Hall Mason at the grocery store is it against Masonic law to say hello?
Does my Christian church say to me that another denomination does not follow Christian Theology correctly, therefore you are to have no discourse with them? Does a Republican refuse to talk to a Democrat or vice versa? Is this conduct rooted in the teachings of Freemasonry or the Teachings of the Holy Bible which rests upon the Masonic altar? Or could there be another motivation for what the Grand Master of Arkansas calls “a possible problem?”
I’m going to let the reader draw his/her own conclusions. You are all adults and adept at reading between the lines. But I, for one, am going to ask this Grand Master and others to stop calling Prince Hall Masonry bogus, spurious and clandestine. For a Grand Master to do so is just plain ignorant. Grand Master Hedge, Prince Hall is not irregular or clandestine or bogus it is just unrecognized. You just refuse to recognize Prince Hall. Why can’t you be a bit more gracious in your disagreement?
But I don’t think the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is stupid. He knows what he is doing and why. It seems that this Grand Master just wants to name call and thereby hurt, demean and degrade other Freemasons. He is acting like a third grade bully. I would point him to our ritual which says, “By the exercise of Brotherly Love we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family.” And I would invite him to crack the Holy Bible once in awhile, that work of God which adorns every American Masonic altar. There are numerous verses that are our rule and guide but the one that comes to mind is, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Finally it becomes incumbent upon me to once again for the umpteenth time to ask when Mainstream Masonry is going to police itself? Recently we can point to Frank Haas’ expulsion in West Virginia and the nasty actions of Georgia Mainstream Masons when a black man was raised in an Atlanta Lodge. There are many more examples too numerous to catalog here. I am fully aware of the tradition of one jurisdiction not messing in the affairs of another jurisdiction. But what ever happened with whispering wise words of advice into the ear of another Brother? Could not a few other Grand Masters pick up the phone? And if push comes to shove, rather than interfere, those Mainstream Grand Lodges that are following the moral authority could wash their hands of these matters by just pulling recognition from what are really rogue Grand Lodges.
And finally I cannot help but ask do you see or hear about such outlandish behavior from Prince Hall Grand Lodges? Do they scream and yell discrimination? Do they impose such rulings on their brethren? Will the Prince Hall Grand Master of Arkansas strike back? I know he won’t, but I will.