Thursday, September 25, 2008

My feelings about Masonry

I have been criticized for some of my postings in my blog. I want to state for the record, that I stand behind every word. Masonry is NOT a religion, and its leaders are NOT infallible. If Masonry needs to be criticized, I will criticize it. If the fraternity is taking a position, that is not in the best interests of the craft, it needs to be criticized.

The recent events in North Carolina show one point. It took courage, and integrity, to "buck the trend", and move North Carolina Masonry into the correct decision, to recognize Prince Hall Masonry. Bravo to the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, and the members!! I have written a letter to the MW Grand Master of Masons, praising him for his courage and leadership.

I use the pronoun "I", in my posts, when I am referring to myself. I am the only one person, working with the Grand Lodge of New York, to get a charter for Land, Sea, and Air Lodge #1. When I work with other people, I will use the pronoun "we".

Remember- "Only a dead fish goes downstream 100% of the time"


Wayfaring Man said...

As a student of military lodges, I would be interested in knowing when your charter or dispensation is approved.

Raymond Sean walters said...

Please allow me to introduce myself; my name is Raymond Sean Walters. My racial and ethnic background is Scottish and Native American on my father’s side and African/ West Indian on my mother’s side. Here in America, that makes me Black, despite the genetic mix. As you read on you will see why this is relevant to this paper.

I am presently a member of Valley Hi Lodge #1407 AF&AM, located in San Antonio, Texas. It is chartered under the MW Grand Lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons of Texas, and is located outside the west gate of Lackland Air Force Base. I have felt this was a large part of why I was accepted as a member. A large percentage of members of this particular lodge are retired or active duty military from different parts of the world.
For those who still may not understand, it is the recognized ‘white’ Grand Lodge in Texas that is recognized by England, Scotland & Ireland.

Though I am somewhat content with my current membership, I am not completely satisfied. At present it is distance from my home lodge that hinders me. I presently reside in West Virginia, where the actions and comments from the previous two grand masters have made it unequivocally clear that I, nor any other Black man is welcome in the Grand Lodge of West Virginia. For that matter, a Caucasian brother who had been a Prince Hall member while stationed abroad in the US military years ago was deemed unacceptable even though his current membership was in the Grand Lodge of Maryland and he demitted to West Virginia from another recognized Grand Lodge.

This is relevant to me in that I originally was a member of the Prince Hall side of the fraternity. My membership there was by accident, in that my attempts to petition ‘mainstream’ lodges when of legal age to do so were thwarted by blatant racism. I was directly told that due to my mother being Black, I would not be permitted to petition a regular lodge. At this point in my life, I was a husband, father, recent college graduate and a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force Reserve. Despite my personal and professional standing, I was being told I wasn’t “good enough” simply because of my skin color. There was no other factor involved in their decision. I am certainly glad that Freemasonry imposes no such requirements for membership! HA! HA!

It was then that I learned of the Prince Hall side of the fraternity. I ended up petitioning a Prince Hall lodge North Carolina and placed under the tutelage of a Prince Hall mason who was a personal friend of my paternal grandfather, a white man who was an operative brick and stone mason just like the man and brother he sent me to be instructed by, who happened to be Black. My grandfather trusted my Masonic instruction to a Black man in America in whom he had the utmost confidence.

I worked at my profession, operative and speculative. I was required to learn everything that should be learned by an apprentice from a competent Master. And learn it I did. I learned it so well that I progressed extremely well as a Prince Hall mason.

The only thing I wasn’t truly prepared for was the discrimination in the Black community toward one another. To me, it was bad enough to be discriminated against by other Americans, but by other Blacks in America was really incomprehensible. So imagine being mistreated by a Prince Hall mason because of my fair skin or articulate manner of speaking. Now we all know that these are negative stereotypes, but many of us, both black and white need to get ourselves together and truly live up to the standard set before us as men and masons!

Nonetheless, I persevered until I was residing in Texas. After many years I had reached my personal limits of the abuse and mistreatment I would allow myself to accept at the hands of ‘white’ masons, many of whom didn’t strike me as having much Masonic knowledge, let alone a love of the several liberal arts & sciences, that we as Masons are taught to love and appreciate, and that my parents had instilled in me and my siblings from a young age.

I made my mind up that I would have to be accepted for the man that I AM! I petitioned Valley Hi and my petition was accepted. What I then learned was that I had to re-take all degrees since regular lodges don’t recognize Prince Hall. Though I thought this unusual, I, a Prince Hall mason who has been duly tried, and never denied, I was ready for whatever was thrown at me by anyone calling themselves a Free & Accepted Mason. I considered it a great privilege to be able to call myself a Prince Hall mason as Prince Hall lodges have typically been highly selective on who is permitted membership in their lodges. Like everything, over time this has gradually changed.
As it was explained to me, “once a Prince Hall mason, always a Prince Hall mason!”even though I am no longer an active, dues paying member of Prince Hall.

Relocation to another part of the country required that a lodge where I was be contacted to perform ‘courtesy work’. This was not a problem since I was in a jurisdiction that fraternal recognition existed, so a Black man in a ‘white’ lodge didn’t draw much attention.

Since that time I have relocated again and presently reside in West Virginia, where I am unable to visit lodges. I considered demission to the only lodge in West Virginia that examined me and permitted me to visit, but the action of the last two Grand Masters concerned me greatly. I did not want to see that lodge, Wheeling Lodge #5, lose their charter or have some other negative action taken against them for allowing my presence.

There is currently a civil court case here in West Virginia against the Grand Lodge of West Virginia by PGM Frank Haas. He was summarily expelled my GM Charlie Montgomery without trial of any kind, for the offense of being an open-minded and decent man. I will gladly email anyone who requests a copy of the friend of the court brief submitted by the Grand Master of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of West Virginia in hopes of assisting GM Haas with his civil case.

The lessons learned by me have been many, but I say this from experience, a Masonic lodge is a Masonic lodge. I have sat in many lodges and given numerous lectures or other ritualistic work to candidates and instruction of brethren present. The ‘work’ is the same regardless of grand lodge jurisdiction. The thing that is different is what is in the heart of the brothers who make up any individual lodge. I can say all of this from my personal experience because in America, I have not only been a member of Prince Hall & mainstream lodges, I have visited and sat in Prince Hall & mainstream lodges.

I wish to thank my parents, grandparents on both sides of my family for giving me a healthy self-identity, and preparing me as best they could to deal with the world we live in. I wish to thank the following Freemasons: Bro. Levi Gee, Jr. of Mount Airy, North Carolina, my first Masonic instructor outside of my immediate family. Additionally,
I also wish to thank Bro. Joseph Walkes of the Phylaxis Society and Bro. Allen Roberts of the Philalethes Society. My many letters back and forth to these two distinguished masons would give me a fresh perspective, encouragement or remind me of what was truly important.

Bro. Raymond Sean Walters, Valley Hi Lodge #1407 AF&AM, San Antonio, Texas

I can be reached at the following:,