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Thursday, July 07, 2016

A Brother's Distress

Last night about 9:30, a black man in his 30s was shot by a white police officer during a routine traffic stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune today:
A St. Paul man died Wednesday night after being shot by police in Falcon Heights, the immediate aftermath of which was shown in a video recorded by the man's girlfriend as she sat next to him and which was widely shared on Facebook.
The girlfriend started the live-stream video with the man in the driver’s seat slumped next to her, his white T-shirt soaked with blood on the left side. In the video, taken with her phone, she says they were pulled over at Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street for a broken taillight.
The “police shot him for no apparent reason, no reason at all,” she says.
Friends at the scene identified the man as Philando Castile, 32, cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori School in St. Paul.
Castile’s cousin said on her Facebook page that he was dead. Castile’s uncle, Clarence Castile, who was at Hennepin County Medical Center with other family members, said Philando died at 9:37 p.m., a few minutes after arriving at the hospital.
So why am I posting this here, apart from highlighting just another incident in what is becoming a stack of stories so commonly reported now that they have turned into just so much nightly noise on the news?

Because, apart from my own sense of remorse for the family of this young man and a desire to know the truth behind the tragedy, wherever it leads, there's another reason. Philandro Castile's uncle Clarence is a District Deputy Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Minnesota. He and the young man's mother appeared this morning on CNN, and at one point in the very long interview he said the words no Mason ever wants to hear anywhere, at any time, for any reason. And no, I'm not going to post them or a link to the interview. You just need to trust me on this. He did.

So, what to do?

I have reached out to try to contact RW Castile. And I suspect he didn't do it as some call for the usual "thoughts and prayers" everyone always offers up during these times. Those are certainly comforting and give people reassurance that there are plenty of others who are offering what they can from far away. But I suspect he was pleading for help in a much larger sense.

This was the second one of these types of shootings in two days (the first was in Baton Rouge on Tuesday). I am not in the least proclaiming that the officer was in the wrong without a shred of any evidence in either direction. I don't know. NO ONE KNOWS. Maybe there's a bodycam that can be looked at. But maybe not. Certainly there will be investigations of the police to determine if rules were broken, and the usual calls for calm will pour out. Accusations will fly in all directions, and the usual parade of politicians, activists and "experts" will all get their three minutes of fame on cable. And then, it will all fade.

I don't ascribe to the notion of squads of dumb, racist, white cops with a Wyatt Earp syndrome ruthlessly gunning down innocent black and brown people during trumped up broken headlight stops. Certainly the war zone statistics from an average weekend in Chicago alone show that plenty of black Americans are killing each other without any cops involved at all. And there are plenty of figures that can be trotted out to dispassionately show how many white suspects are killed every year by police, with comparisons of black crime rates, etc., etc., etc. And I know that police are resigning all over the country because they feel they can't win no matter what they do. They put on body armor every day of their working lives and head out with the full knowledge that at least a third of the people they run into during their shift probably would like to see them dead. To be frank, I don't know how they get up and clock in every day with that knowledge.

But I have known too many people throughout my lifetime with stories of being pulled over for "driving while black."  It's not just something Geraldo Rivera tosses off as a casual quip or as "common knowledge." It's a very real phenomenon.

So maybe RW Brother Clarence's call was really to his brethren on police forces and in government everywhere asking for help on a much grander scale than just thoughts and prayers or a few dollars tossed into an offering basket. Or just to anyone else who might be able to make a difference, wherever they are, or whatever color they happen to be. I don't know. But I find myself asking a question today that I'll bet many of you are, too. 

A Brother has asked for help. My obligation says I must fly. Now what do I do?

(Please note: I have been informed that RW Clarence D. Castile is a District Deputy Grand Master in his jurisdiction, not a PGM as I originally posted. That does not change anything, but I have corrected the message above. )

UPDATE at 11 PM 7/7:

The following information has been posted tonight on the Facebook page of Palestine Lodge No. 7 PHA in Minneapolis: 
Good Evening Brothers, I spoke with Brother Clarence Castile and let him know that many of his brothers are deeply concerned and sent their condolences to his family and that many are asking how they can help. He wanted me to inform you brothers that he and his family are thankful for all your prayers and support. If you would like to help aid and assist, you can do so this Saturday at Palestine Lodge No 7 annual BBQ. 3836 4th Ave S. Minneapolis MN. Your donations will go directly to the family. Thanks to all.
UPDATE at 1:30AM 7/8:

RW Brother Clarence Castile from Minnesota has noted on his Facebook page that a GoFundMe site has been set up for online donations that will directly assist his nephew's family after last night's fatal shooting. I am aware that several fraudulent sites were taken down by GoFundMe earlier on Thursday, but this site is verified by his family. CLICK HERE

I ask everyone to act by their conscience. The Brother went on national television yesterday morning and asked for help from his Brethren. Not donations. He's not even asking that on his Facebook page, but is responding to those who want to send money, because that's the first natural impulse that people have. 

But I can't help but feel that he was asking for help on a much bigger level, that can't be paid for in cash. I took it to mean help for all of our society that hasn't seen divisions this glaring in decades. And if indeed that is the help he is seeking, I'm just not sure where to start.


  1. MWPGM Castille's sister said quite enough for me on this. As a Prince Hall Mason and someone who has experienced police vigilante-ism first hand, I can say that the conditions African Americans are forced to live under would be deemed unacceptable in any other neighborhood when it comes to police. These things happen daily and are only newsworthy when caught on film.

    1. I believe his call was for every person especially a brother to stop and take a look @ whats happening to young black men and bring attention worldwide to this issue.

    2. I believe his call for help was to make us all stop..look..and listen.
      This has been going on far to long and for 2 young black men 24hrs apart has to say something. I believe he is calling on us as masons and men to start being a voice to this tragedy. I heard his call as well

    3. I was angry when I heard the news of this avoidable tragedy but I was beside myself with grief when I heard the words spoken by Brother Castile. We must answer.

      Paul Capello
      Livonia Lodge 778

  2. I seen that interview and when there is a call from a brother we will answer it to the fullest!!

  3. I also watched this interview and my jaw dropped when I heard those words. Not sure if there is anything I can do or not - but .... I am here nonetheless.

    Peter Marek, WM Pitman #197 NJ

  4. I saw this this morning. I cried and texted all of my Brothers. One would not say that on CNN without real thought. I am moved, and disgusted by the destruction of brown and black bodies by those that should protect. I heard his call. We must help. I and some of the Brothers of my Lodge could be in St. Paul (we are in NYC) as early as Saturday. Email me for further details my Brother. Thank you for this post.

  5. Our society is sinking. It's our obligation as a Craft to bring order to the chaos. To bring us out of darkness and back into the light.

  6. Whatever is needed. Let's make it happen

  7. I'm in Chicago if the craft is going to rally around this brother count me in

  8. The Grand Master of the GL of Minnesota has spoken today with the GM of the MWPHGL of MN, MW Kymphus Muhammad, and I have sent messages to both the PHA Grand Secretary and to PGM Castile himself, asking if there is anything tangible that is needed at this time (although I suspect that the PGM won't be looking at social media very much for a while, given the circumstances). I will post as I hear anything.

  9. I will follow this thread for more updates

  10. Please keep us posted, WB Chris. I am shaking. I never thought I'd hear those words in my life. My heart cries out for justice, peace to the family, and that things change. Alas, I don't think they will happen.

  11. We have a situation where we need to demonstrate the highest form of brotherhood. That of supporting those within and those without who can address both the needs of citizen and officer in the same level.

  12. It saddens me that a brother has felt the real need to call on his brethren for help. In what ever way I can no matter how small I will answer his call as I am honor and duty bound and have no reservations in doing so.

  13. Bro. Hodapp, I appreciate you writing about this unfortunate matter. I will be praying for MWPGM Castille and his family. I will say that I don't understand the need to include the following sentence with this incident.

    "Certainly the war zone statistics from an average weekend in Chicago alone show that plenty of black Americans are killing each other without any cops involved at all."

    I am a Black native Chicagoan. I know about the violence in my hometown but that is a separate issue from this one. It's like talking about heart disease and someone interjecting well plenty people die from cancer.

    Also, when civilians kill another civilian that is one horrible act. The most horrid act an individual can do is take another person's life unnecessarily. When a police officer (1) kills an unarmed person unnecessarily and (2) is not charged. Those are TWO horrible acts. Generally the protests are about the lack of injustice not just the murder itself. We know when civilian John shoots somebody and is caught we KNOW he is going to rot in jail or worse. When officer friendly shoots someone he is going to get a paid vacation.

    Also it isn't simply "Black Americans" killing each other. It is criminals killing civilians in an neighborhoods that are poor, low jobs, low esteem and high access to drugs. In these neighborhoods there are mostly Black and Brown people living in them. Saying Black Americans lumps us all together and infers (intentionally or not) that Black Americans are more prone to violence. Criminals are more prone to violence. We have to solve the myriad of reasons why there are mostly Black and Brown people in these American neighborhoods with these conditions that breeds criminals.

    Also most murders occur between people that live and interact with each other so most murders are intra-racial (even the white murders). Sorry for the long rant, but I'm tired of their being a "But" in a conversation about the loss of Black lives. I have seen so many people say "It was sad the guy was killed by police but ..." There is no "but". These same people bring up "Black on Black" crime statements. Again, sorry for the long rant. These incidents are very painful.

    Bro. Hodapp, I know your intentions are honorable. I don't want to miss the point of your entire post but I was moved to say something. Keep up the good work Brother.

    1. This needed to be said. Thank you, Brother.

  14. I never thought I would hear those words and I am in tears. Our prayers for justice, peace and change go to the family

  15. Thank you AC Cooley.

    Black Americans have been acknowledging violence and many, many, many, many other ills in our community for generations.

    The "need" to mention it is perverse. I've worked with many white families who suffer molestation and abuse and I don't feel the need to ask them to work on it as a community. I can't imagine a single church service or civil event I've attended where our community hasn't chastised itself.

    I wish our allies could focus on the issue without deflecting and offering excuses.

    That being said, this is set up by the victim's sister for funeral expenses.:

  16. Brother's one and all. Please remember your obligation. As the world's oldest fraternity in the world, it is incumbent on all of us and not hesitate to go out of our way for a distressed Brother.

  17. Regardless of his past or present station in his jurisdiction, he's a Mason and he says he needs help. I have no idea what I can offer but if I'm needed I'm here.

    Dave Brown
    Garden City Lodge, Newtonville, MA

  18. Brother Chris, I also don't know how I can help, but if you hear of any way for me to be of aid, of course, I want to respond.

    Timothy Bonney, PM, WM
    Morningside Lodge No. 615, Sioux City, Iowa

  19. WB Hodapp, thank you for bringing this to the Craft's attention. I searched for and watched the interview and when RW Castile spoke the words a chill ran down my spine. He spoke them as a call to action for our Fraternity. But I also share the concerns of some of the other brethren here, that too often when talking about law enforcement violence against black men there is a "but". There can be no "but" when responding to RW Castile's call to action. Our obligation is to "fly".

    John McLaughlin, PM
    Amity #23, Brigham City, Utah

  20. Concerning "where to start," the question on which the original post ends:

    Public condemnation of racism and racist violence.

    Yes, it's hard. Yes, you'll lose friends. Yes, there may be consequences in the wallet.

    Our prayers will only go so far. As a newspaper headline said in relation to another kind of violence recently:

    "God's Not Going to Fix This."

    And God is not going to fix this, either.

    Of all people, we Masons--the ones who believe in Brotherly Love, which, as Anderson's Constitutions make abundantly clear, refer to embracing humanity without regard for differences of class, religion, or politics, and so, I would think race--we Masons ought to be the ones taking very public and unconditional stances against racism, especially racist violence.

    You asked, my brother and friend.

    RW Mark Koltko-Rivera
    Grand Historian, Grand Lodge of NY, F&AM
    Heritage #371, New York City, NY
    Winter Park #239, Winter Park, FL

  21. Dear Honorable Brethren

    I heard Bro. Clarence Castile’s call for help, who I learned is a PGM of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Minnesota.

    Please be so kind and express my sympathy for him and his family at the tragic death of his nephew Philando.

    I wish them STRENGTH to cope with the sadness about the loss, I wish them WISDOM to see not all is lost as the good deeds of the lost ones live on, and the ability to continue to discover the BEAUTY all around us.

    Be assured Brethren around the world will not cease to work towards true equality. I believe this is what we owe each other.

    May justice be served.

    Fraternal Greetings from Germany,

    MM of the Blue Lodge “Loge zur Einigkeit” Nr. 11 (founded in 1742) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

  22. There have been great tragedies recently within our most noble and time-honored institution. This has certainly illuminated for me a great deficiency within our order. It has shown me that we don't have the proper protocols in place across the nation to handle such widespread calls for help, aid, and assistance. Many Grand Maters have also notice from what I'm reading. Therefore, I'm engaging in discussions with different Grand Masters (and other Grand Officers) concerning "a more unified solution". My services are being offered freely and completely in whatever capacity. Because this was nearly the Masonic equivalent of a FEMA Disaster Alert and I see one thing rings out no matter where you hear, see, or read it. Brothers have no idea what to do in this situation. It's one we hope to never encounter, and most brothers rarely do, but we should still prepare for such instances. Similar to the fire drills we have all ran at some point in life.

    There is a webpage being established for the garnering of support and information for this initiative. Any and ALL brothers from all regular masonic jurisdictions are encouraged to register to show your support.


    1. Just passing a message along Brothers.

    2. Yeah, just passing a message.

  23. Brothers, I see the fundme link. I understand children were involved. Did he have children? As a therapist, I can only imagine what witnessing this horror could do. Happy to help

  24. I'm not sure how I can help, but I'm definitely here.

    John Heimkes IV
    Anoka Lodge #30, Anoka, Minnesota

    1. I know right? The sentiments of many brothers around the world who have heard of this tragedy.

  25. My first time hearing these words spoken when not in a Degree or Instruction ... very powerful usage, calls to mind the state of distress the entire country is in.

    1. Mine to Brother. As a lecturer, PM, and degree team member, you can imagine I've said it and heard it A LOT. But never, not even a single time before has it ever made my heart drop like it did when I heard Bro Castile say it FOR REAL, no instruction involved.

  26. "A Brother has asked for help. My obligation says I must fly. Now what do I do?"

    Brilliantly put, for so many of us.

    Glenn Overby II, PM
    St Joseph Lodge No 970, St Joseph IL
    Admiration Chapter No UD, Homer IL

    1. That's what that message I shared was about. It says the higher ups are discussing some kind of unification plan. Apparently, the shock felt by everyone hearing it actually used for the first time on a National (if not global) scale opened some eyes and caused quite a few of us to realize that we have no real plan in place for this type of thing. NONE of us seem to.

  27. Being from the Deep South, racism is seen everyday from whites/blacks/browns. As a country, we have to move past the attitude of "they" made me or "they" did this... A person acts the way they do because choose to. Regardless of how someone treats me, the only person that controls my response is me. I would hope that Masonry is teaching us all to be responsible for our own actions and have compassion and respect for others. We must lead by example and hope that one day it will spread to all. That being said, prayers from Alabama to the Brother and the young man's family.

    James Grigsby
    JW Georgiana Davis 338
    Birmala 836

  28. Our Brother needs us. Lets stand in unity to assist.

    1. That's what that message I shared was about. It says the higher ups are discussing some kind of unification plan.

  29. Maybe it's time for Brothers to do more than grumble and disagree in private. Maybe we ought to try to address this terrible abuse of power by those who break their oaths to serve and protect. Give the world a reason to keep all those conspiracy theories, leave them jumping at the shadow of the power that our order (supposedly) once wielded. It won't happen, of course. The Grand Lodges of the United States are as divided as the nation that we cumulatively represent. Wouldn't it be something though? For a group pf men who specialize in pancake breakfasts to actually affect useful change in the world again. A sight to see, my brothers.


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