Monday, June 15, 2009

The Great Debate Within African American Freemasonry

Should Prince Hall Grand Lodges “recognize” African-American non-Prince Hall bodies?

For decades, this question has bedeviled the African-American Masonic community, as confusion and argument has raged over Prince Hall Affiliated (PHA), versus Prince Hall Origin (PHO) grand lodges. Further tossed into the mix are literally hundreds of African American grand lodges that have sprung up independently across the US. The Phylaxis Society, a research group similar in spirit to the Philalethes Society and the Masonic Society, but largely PHA-oriented, has long derided anything but PHA grand lodges as spurious, or to use the Phylaxis nomenclature, "bogus." Hundreds of these totally irregular and clandestine grand lodges consist of one or two lodges and are unquestionably money making or ego stroking ventures, totally unconnected with even a vague connection to legitimate Freemasonry.

But the PHO lodges in particular present a quandary within African American Freemasonry, because they, like PHA grand lodges, descended from Prince Hall's African Lodge in Boston. The difference is that PHO lodges split during a brief experiment within the Prince Hall lodges with a national grand lodge. Referred to as the "National Compact," a group of Prince Hall lodges assembled what they hoped would become a national governing body on June 24th, 1847. Not all states joined in the Compact, and schisms began to develop. In 1863, there was a major walkout by a large group of grand lodges who wished to return to the state grand lodge system. PHO (National Compact) grand lodges still exist, but the PHA grand lodges have dominated African American Freemasonry, and are the grand lodges that have been recognized by their mainstream counterparts. The history of this is explored in Out of the Shadows: The Emergence of Prince Hall Freemasonry in America, 200 Years of Endurance, by Alton G. Roundtree and Paul M. Bessel. The book stirred up new controversies when it was released.

On Tuesday, June 23, 2009, RW Ezekiel M. Bey of Cornerstone Lodge # 37 and WM Thomas C. Brooks, Jr. of Adelphic Union Lodge #14 will debate the question, "Should Prince Hall Grand Lodges “recognize” African-American non-Prince Hall bodies?" WM Brooks will argue for, while RW Bey argues against the question. This debate will be free of charge and open to the public.

Location: Prince Hall Plaza – 454 West 155th Street – 3rd Floor, New York City, begins at 7:30pm

For more information contact JW Jonathan Shim at (914) 564-9858, or email Adelphic Union Lodge # 14 at AUL14@ymail.com

2 comments:

Sarpaedon said...

I'd like to attend that debate, but sadly, can't because of distance.

Is anyone going to make a transcript of it?

Kevin P. said...

there will be a DVD available for purchase - just shoot an email to AUL14@ymail.com

Thanks and you will be missed