Sunday, December 03, 2006

More About the GL of Texas' PHA Recognition


From today's Prince Hall Freemasonry Research List:

I have spoken at length with a brother who is a member of the GL of Texas and was present at the GL session today. He tells me that the matter of recognition came up and the Chairman of the Fraternal Relations Committee spoke in detail length about the matter. The Chairman said that Texas had already given its opinion that the PH GL of Texas was regular several years ago. He stated the facts about the practice, nature and history of PH Masonry and recommended that recognition be given as requested by the MWPHGL of Texas. When the matter of visitation came up, the Chairman said that the GM of the PH GL of TX did not request or desire visitation. The vote was a simple majority and passed with about a 75% - 25%. I was told that if full recognition with visitation had been on the table, that would have also passed.

It would seem that the reason for non-visitation is due to the lack of desire on the part of the PH GM. I would be interested in hearing from someone from the MWPHGL of TX.

Fraternally,
Michael Poll, PM
Germania Lodge #46
New Orleans, LA


It appears that the next move is in the hands of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas. We had a similar situation for a brief period in Indiana, several years after joint recognition was passed by both Grand Lodges. A new PH Grand Master arrived and canceled all visitation to PHA lodges from mainstream members unless he specifically reviewed and approved of such visits individually. It was a long two years. Fortunately, his successors have been far more open-minded.

Let's hope our Texas PHA brethren drop those barriers soon.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. 75% to 25% in favor? So it seems that our Texas brethren aren't quite the collection of crackers, rednecks and yahoos some have painted them as, eh?

I wonder how the UGLA boys will spin THIS one.

Kelley said...

As a EA, I'm very new to Freemasonry. I look forward to continuing my journey.
In my quest to learn as much as I can, I was surprised to learn about PH and the fact they were not recognized everywhere.

Why is this? Does this go back to the days of racism and segregation? Why would this organization not be worthy of acceptance?

Tom Accuosti said...

I wonder how the UGLA boys will spin THIS one.

Anony, some of the UGLA crowd have already been accused of being irrationally exuberant in their criticism of the AF&AM. Do you think that it's in the interest of brotherly love and friendship to badger from this end as well?

Tom Accuosti
The Tao of Masonry

Chris Hodapp said...

Agreed. Please, let's not poke those guys.

A further note on the Philalethes list from Charlie Munro in Texas talked at length about the GL of Texas session, and how the assembled brethren would have voted in favor of visitation, had the MWPHGL asked for it in their request.

Again, all of this is good news. Grand Lodges usually change direction at the speed of aircraft carriers. In this case, I'm guessing the coming year will bring great things.

Phil said...

My Brothers

As the Sitting Master of a Georgia Lodge, I am becoming somewhat perturbed at my Brethren who seem to know what is best for us and PH Masons in this state. Non-recognition has nothing whatsoever to do with slavery or prejudice. If you want to understand Masonry please come and visit my Lodge. You will be overwhelmed with the sense of "Peace and Harmony" that prevails. Perhaps this Brotherly Love and Respect is more importnat than political agendas. Again, I invited you to Fort Valley Lodge # 110. we meet on 2nd and 4th Tuesdays.


Phil, 2006 WM

Chris Hodapp said...

Wbro. Phil,
I understand why the majority of Masons in the South who are not prejudiced feel unduly lumped into a defensive posture when the Prince Hall questions arise. As has been stated here before, the recognition of PHA is a two way street. The Texas situation is a perfect example - the GL of Texas could only vote on what the MWPHGLofT requested.

Moreover, I am well aware that the Prince Hall GLs are afraid of being swallowed up by the larger mainstream GLs. They do not want to lose their 230 year heritage, nor do they want to go the way of the Negro Baseball Leagues once Major League Baseball integrated. And they do not want, to be perfectly honest, to give up being the first choice of young, modern black men when they go looking for Freemasonry. Prince Hall lodges have been important parts of their communities for two centuries, and they have staked out that position of importance by being an ancient institution for blacks, with their own customs and practices, every bit as proud of their heritage as we are.

I do not approach this question from a politically correct stance. I have sat in Prince Hall lodges many times, and I am an honorary member of African Lodge No. 459. I am well aware of the chaos that has existed in Prince Hall Masonry for 150 years. I am well aware that there has been confusion and infighting over the National Compact years, PHO lodges, plus the added confusion over the International GLs, along with literally hundreds of schismatic, breakaway and just plain mercenary groups that have all claimed to be regular Freemasonry within the black community. I am also not blind to the role of egos and the fear of losing exalted positions if they were to be swallowed up.

I am also aware of the excuse used by some jurisdictions that PHA Freemasonry is not properly descended from an established Masonic authority. Curiously, they are the only Masonic body in America that still has its charter from the premiere Grand Lodge of England. And the Council of Grand Masters of North America and the United Grand Lodge of England both settled the question of PHA's proper, regular pedigree long ago.

Having said that, for you to contend that non-recognition of the PHA GLs in the South has nothing whatsoever to do with slavery or prejudice is intellectually dishonest, whatever your own personal views - or those of the majority of men in your lodge - happen to be. I had a Mason who was a police officer in Atlanta poke me in the chest and tell me in no uncertain terms, ten inches from my face, that a black man can't be a Mason, that his obligation says so. There remain official monitors in this country that define "freeborn" as "not descended from slaves." They claim it to be an "ancient Roman" definition, when it is nothing but a 19th century invention by Masons specifically to keep blacks from joining. I had another Mason in Montgomery tell me that his lodge and the local klan were made up of essentially the same members. I had an Ohio Mason tell me that his buddy in Texas said their Grand Lodge "knew how to treat 'em and put 'em in their place."

And I wish you could see my email inbox.

Freemasonry is in a difficult period. We have enough troubles facing our future without having to contend with the stain of racism. It flies in the face of our own philosophy, and America is the only place that Freemasonry accepted institutionalized segregation - on both sides of the color line. And it needed to end decades ago. Hiding behind recognition nomenclature and procedural excuses is feeble.

I assure you, those young men we hope to attract to our lodges don't encounter it in their jobs, their schools, their housing, their restaurants or their transportation. Why in the hell should they find it in a place dedicated to universal brotherhood?

Eric said...

I am not currently a Mason, but thinking about it. Prior to joining any group, I usually like to know what I am getting myself into. That being said...

Since the non-recognition of Prince Hall Masons is based totally on race, why are these Grand Lodges still recognized by the Grand Lodges of other states that recognize the injustice being done to your Prince Hall brothers? Why is there not universal condemnation of Grand Lodges that refuse to recognize Black Masons?

Chris Hodapp said...

Number one is that most of the Grand Lodges that do not recognize Prince Hall Grand Lodges base their actions (or inactions) on their opinion that Prince Hall Masonry has questionable pedigree. Their sticking point is that Brother Hall's African Lodge in Boston was only authorized by their military charter to meet, not to enroll new Masons, and certainly not to declare themselves a Grand Lodge. The same is true of the English charter received after the end of the revolution. Again, they were chartered as an individual lodge. When African Lodge was stricken from the rolls of the newly merged United Grand Lodge of England in 1813 for non-payment of their assessments, by the rules of Masonic jurisprudence, African Lodge had no authority to declare themselves to be a Grand Lodge. Therefore, goes this line of thinking, any subsequent chartering of lodges by African Lodge and its successors was improper.

That's the legalese explanation.

Second, it is a long-standing agreement in the world among the mainstream Grand Lodges that "competing" (for lack of a better word) Grand Lodges will not charter new lodges in another GL's jurisdiction without securing some kind of treaty. A codicil to that is the "newer" Grand Lodge requests permission to coexist from the "older" one. As a result, most Prince Hall GLs rankled at the notion of going begging to the mainstream for recognition, especially when they knew they'd be turned down anyway.

Since the 1990s, these issues have been assuaged throughout the country.

Recognition between Grand Lodges is a delicate brand of diplomacy, and it is undeniable that egos - on both sides of the issue - play a large part in the dance. The Texas situation is a perfect example - the Prince Hall GL only requested a decision on their regularity from the GL of Texas, not on visitation. The GL of Texas could only act on what was requested.

And regardless of the frustrated good intentions the rest of US Masonry may be wanting to force on our brethren in the South, there are issues on both sides of the street. Prince Hall Masonry is not without its problems that race has nothing to do with. PHA Masonry is, for example, almost exclusively Christian-based, and not as non-sectarian as their mainstream counterparts. And many states have a handful and even dozens of lodges and Grand Lodges that claim an untrue connection to Prince Hall Masonry that the mainstream guys are confused and bewildered. They don't know who to believe sometimes. Again, it's not always about race.

Grand Lodges move at the rate of glaciers and oil tankers. That is both their curse and their asset. It keeps revolutionary bomb throwers from changing too fast, but still keeps the entrenched old guard from stopping change at every turn. But what is most important is that some mass action by Grand Lodges across the US is unlikely to happen. Cutting off a GL means members may not intervisit. Snowbirds from Indiana living in Texas, Alabama, Florida, etc. would not be able to sit in lodge or get a Masonic funeral service, for example.

The votes each year in the southern GLs show that the old, entrenched racism of the bad old days is dying out, and the more funerals that happen, the numbers will change. And the Internet makes these actions instantly known worldwide. All of this will eventually result in the change most of us seek. I personally wish someone at the annual Council of Grand Masters would drive this issue home with the group every year until the southern GMs finally get proactive on the subject. But the PHA GMs need to get on board too. Joint recognition has not been universally trouble-free, and I won't deny that most of the obstructions have been placed in the path by the PHA GLs.

My ultimate point is that we live in exciting times as Masons, and the new generation of leadership is coming in right now. Masonry needs its visionary leaders and reformers now more than ever. But issues like this one rarely touch the local lodge up the street from your house. What is most important is for you to meet with Masons from the lodge you are interested and interview them as much as they interview you. If the racial question is important to you, make it known, and if you get the creeps or get insulted by what you hear, move on and start looking for a more progressive lodge. They are frankly far more numerous than all of this negative chatter may lead you to believe.

Eric said...

Chris, Thanks very much for your very informative reply. I have been reading a lot of websites and blogs, and will continue to attempt gain as much information as possible. The racial divide among your brotherhood is probably my primary concern. As a person who is interested in the brotherhood of all men, and not a brotherhood of some men that is only valid north of the 39th parallel, Freemasonry really presents an interesting challenge.

Chris Hodapp said...

I do not disagree with your sentiment. It's an imperfect fraternity, but we are lucky to be living at a time when the institutionalized barriers are tumbling quickly. Such attitudes are a social anachronism today. Sadly they were not a mere 30 years ago. But the changes have happened. The overwhelming majority of US Masonry has consigned it to the ash heap of history.

Some get their historical perspective from books. Me, I get it from Bugs Bunny. I was watching a cartoon last week in which Bug crosses the Mason Dixon Line and is confronted by Yosemite Sam, dressed as a Civil War officer, who starts shooting at him.

"But the Civil War ended a hundred years ago!" protests Bugs.

"I ain't no clock watcher, " Sam sneers.

No one can force people to socialize with others if they don't want to, and someone who has been raised with racial insecurities is likely to carry them around throughout their life. But I assure you that the overwhelming majority of Freemasons do not share their prejudice.

Eric said...

Chris, I “ain’t no clock watcher” either. So regardless of the hours worked, I won’t be leaving until my job is done, and the big boss upstairs punches my time card and rewards me for my hard work. ;-)

You are absolutely right when you said, “No one can force people to socialize with others if they don't want to, and someone who has been raised with racial insecurities is likely to carry them around throughout their life.” Prejudice people come in all ages and races. I am sure there is some reservation among Prince Hall Masons as well. IMO, the goal shouldn’t be to attempt to change people, but to change the organizations. Those people within the organization that do not agree will either leave organization, or accept the change and make the best of it. Since you stated that the overwhelming majority of Freemasons don’t agree with the prejudice attitudes of the few, then loss should be minimal and Freemasonry would continue even stronger than ever.

For example in the “NCGL voting against recognizing Prince Hall Masons” issue, you reported on your website that the votes were as follows:

1085 votes cast
681 pro recognition
404 against recognition

Passage failed by 43 votes.

If I were a part of the 62% that voted pro, I would have utilized my two “other votes.” I would vote with my wallet, and vote with my feet. I would make it know that if the NCGL doesn’t want to recognize the Prince Hall Masons, then they don’t want to recognize me. My money, my membership, and my good works will be in the company of the brotherhood found in the Prince Hall Lodge down the street. If or when the NCGL decides to change its policy, then you will know where to find me. Until such time, please put me on the long list of those brothers you refuse to recognize.

I am sure in Freemasonry, like in all organizations, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. If the 62% of the NCGL that voted for recognition had the courage of their convictions to vote with their feet and wallets, then either policy would change or the organization would slowly die along with its aging membership. Organizations can not survive without money, and a membership that is willing and able to do the work necessary to conduct the business of that organization. They can not survive without the new blood necessary to keep the organization alive. Since there isn’t too much new blood that would want to be associated with an organization that doesn’t acknowledge brotherhood based on a person’s race, the organization will sooner or later change. Regardless of how long it takes for Freemasonry to change, it is irrelevant fore me because “I ain’t no clock watcher.”

Eric said...

PS. I almost forgot… I understand what you said about the historical reasons for non-recognition. However, today the majority of US GLs and the GL of England recognize the Prince Hall GLs. IMO, any GL that holds out and refuses accept the PHGL is operating under a non-brotherhood agenda, and doing so based on non-Masonic historical reasons.

Chris Hodapp said...

I don't disagree that those who continue to vote against PHA recognition or engineer the blockage of legislation do for any other reason besides racism, and that historical or legalistic reasons are bogus excuses.

I will simply point out that the surest way for change NOT to happen is for good men who CAN change things to walk away, or stay away, from the fraternity. Becoming the new leadership is the only way to remake Freemasonry. I know one thing - dedicated Masons who get themselves expelled, or who demit, and sit outside of the Grand Lodge buildings taking potshots at the organization will not make one bit of difference. It will be the Masons who walk into the Grand Lodge sessions and win the war of ideas that will make the fraternity live up to its own ideals.

Bear said...

The vote was not so wide, it was more like 50/50 with the Grand Master dropping the gavel declaring "passed" it should have went to paper to be sure with no questions. I have no problem with recignition, but I do have a problem with the PH pedigree. It's not regular as declared and PH should be recinized by Grand Lodge of England before it's done here. As I see it, PHGL is clandestine not by race but by legal standing.

Chris Hodapp said...

UGLE won't recognize them until the state's mainstream GL does, out of courtesy to the mainstream. The UGLE risks losing their own standing if they do around recognizing a second GL in a state without the "approval" of the mainstream. But UGLE settled the question of PHA's legitimacy and pedigree to their own satisfaction decades ago.