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Right and Wrong, One Mason's Stand

by Flint Benson (an Ex-Mason for Jesus) November 5, 2003

Masonry is endangering itself and slipping down the slope of notoriety enjoyed by fringe groups who promote bigotry.

What do Andrew Young, Tom Bradley, Sugar Ray Robinson, Lionel Hampton, Penny Hardaway, Count Basie, W. E. B. Dubois, Ralph Metcalfe, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Richard Pryor, Kweisi Mfume, Rep. Charles Rangel, Rep. Chaka Fattah, Rep. Augustus Hawkins, Julian Bond, Medgar Evers, Alex Haley, Thurgood Marshall, Booker T. Washington, Wilson Goode, and Scottie Pippen all have in common during their lifetimes? They were all successful black males who were/are members of the Prince Hall Lodge of Masonry.

Yet, for all their success and contributions to society, other members of Masonry look upon them as "less than worthy" or "clandestine."

Specifically, the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons of North Carolina continues to refuse to recognize any of the above named as masons. Despite the fact that 37 other states have fraternal relations with Prince Hall Masons, "regular" Masons in North Carolina continue to shun them.

A river of racism runs through most of the south, and North Carolina is right in the middle of it. Grand Lodges in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, and West Virginia continue a stubborn foothold in a shameful past and try to keep Masonry lily-white. For an organization that maintains that all men meet on the level square, this is the height of hypocrisy.

Recently at the 216th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of A.F. & A. M. of North Carolina, a resolution was brought forth by committee to recognize Prince Hall Masonry. Former North Carolina Governor Jim Martin gave a report concerning this question. Gov. Martin's committee had been studying the issue for two years and found that Prince Hall Masonry was regular in all respects and recommended that the delegates approve recognition.

Captain Sam Lee spoke at the meeting of how he opened his lodge in Iraq earlier this year, but could not invite some of his fellow soldiers because they were Prince Hall Masons. Men that were serving our country with him, who would fight and die beside him if necessary, were deemed unworthy to be in a lodge meeting with other masons in the unit. Captain Lee recommended passage of the amendment.

However, once the final vote was cast, again racism had raised its ugly head and Prince Hall Masons were deemed unworthy of recognition. What a proud day I'm sure for all Masons in North Carolina.

This division comes down to simple black and white. Some in the Grand Lodge will point out that a black man can petition to join, and if the local lodge accepts him, then he can be a Mason as recognized by the Grand Lodge. But when it only requires one negative vote, without explanation, to keep someone out of the lodge that is not apt to happen in the near future.

I have been a Mason since 1992. During that time I have been through the York Rites and the Shriners. I was even President of a local Shrine club one year. But it has always bothered me that one of my best friends, who is a Prince Hall Mason, could not sit with me in a Masonic meeting. When I had a vehicle break down in Raleigh during a business trip, it was this same Prince Hall Mason who came to my rescue and changed the alternator on my car. When a hurricane left my house with no electricity, it was another Prince Hall Mason who offered the use of his freezer so I wouldn't have any food to spoil.

This discussion of racism shouldn't even be happening in the year 2003. Masonry should have moved past this shameful legacy years ago. Instead it is endangering itself and slipping down the slope of notoriety enjoyed by fringe groups who promote bigotry.

Many of our legislators in North Carolina are Masons. They are: Rep. Gordon Allen, D-Orange Rep. Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg Rep. Arlie Culp, R-Randolph Rep. George Holmes, R-Yadkin Rep. Charles Johnson, D-Martin Rep. Frank Mitchell, R-Iredell Rep. Edd Nye, D-Bladen Rep. Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba Rep. Alex Warner, D-Cumberland Rep. Douglas Yongue, D-Scotland Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare Senator Harris Blake, D-Moore Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston Sen. R. B. Sloan, R-Iredell Sen. A. B. Swindell, D-Nash Sen. Scott Thomas, D-Craven and Sen. David Weinstein, D-Robeson. Many of these men I have met with when I was a lobbyist in Raleigh and I have a great deal of respect for them. They are the leaders of our state and our communities.

Today I would request that they along with other good and decent men join me in resigning from all Masonic bodies and take a stand for what is right. Maybe if the membership rolls of Masonic Lodges across North Carolina drastically decrease, then the message that racism will no longer be tolerated will be heard.

If good men can't stand up for what is right now, then when will they?

(Flint Benson is a freelance writer for Up & Coming Weekly, and a proud member of the Order of Former Freemasons. COMMENTS? Call 910-484-8450 ext. 222 or send an e-mail to the editor.)

Up & Coming Magazine 2003

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