Masonic Unity - From Paper to Practice

By essexcountypolitics.com

August 5, 2017

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Inside the Freemasons' Hall, United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), From Left to Right:
Bro. Mike Binsted, Provincial Assistant Grand Scribe Ezra - Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch
Bro. David Walker, Worshipful Master - Orion In The West Lodge No. 415
Bro. Eldridge Hawkins, Jr. Bethel Lodge No. 10, F & AM - PHA Orange, NJ

London - This month, Former Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Jr. a member of Bethel Lodge #10, Orange, NJ, a local subset of the Prince Hall Masonic organization, made history by being the first member of the Lodge to cross an ocean and visit the The United Grand Lodge of England.

Freemasonry, a fraternal order historically shrouded in secrecy, with various organizational bodies dating back to the early 1700s, had a membership which was once closed to blacks.  Accordingly, Freemasonry in the United States has maintained a split along racial lines for centuries due to racial divides.  Although significant changes have been made, the racial gap was never completely bridged. However, Masonry in the State of New Jersey has shown significant leadership in its quest to have racial unanimity within its fraternal order by addressing segregation and lack of mutual recognition between the two State Grand Lodge Masonic bodies.

Specifically, The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New Jersey formed a Pact with its Caucasian counterpart the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, aboard the Battle Ship New Jersey on September 22, 2002 to establish a level of mutual recognition.  The United Grand Lodge of England had also listed New Jersey’s Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge as a recognized body on its website.  Former Mayor Hawkins’ historic visit to Orion in the West Lodge No. 415 & New Welcome Lodge No. 5139 of London, England, proved that fraternal masonic recognition was indeed in practice and transcended racial lines.

Pictured below: Brothers of New Welcome Lodge No. 5139 at the Festive Board Dinner with Bro. Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Jr. (center)

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Eldridge Hawkins, who is the Director of Policy, Operations & Governmental Affairs at the New Jersey Department of State, runs his own security business, Black Belt Security & Investigations, LLC. and continues his efforts to aid the community. To this end, The Masonic Order who prides itself on helping the community and "making good men better"[1] seems to be a natural fit for the former Mayor.

 

Statement by Bro. Wayne Bufton, Immediate Past Master, Orion In The West Lodge No. 415.

"It was a pleasure to welcome Eldridge to our Lodge meeting especially as he was the first visitor we have had from New Jersey.  We are an old Lodge, established nearly 200 years ago in Pune, India and we pride ourselves on the hospitality and welcome we afford our visitors.  A major part of that welcome is through our Festive Board where we dine with visiting Brethren.  If any Brothers are thinking of visiting London from the USA, we would be honored to receive them as guests at any of our meetings."

 

Statement by Former Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Jr.:

"Since leaving public office, I have continued my growth and have found new ways to help others and give back to the community. Bethel Lodge No. 10 of Orange, NJ, is a conduit to that end. With the blessing of my Lodge Worshipful Master Anthony Kirksey and support of Secretary Garrett L. Winn, I had the extraordinary opportunity of visiting Freemasons Hall in London, England, while studying “International Business Transactions” in Law School abroad. Once there, I was tested, successfully proven to be, and recognized as a Master Mason hailing from Bethel Lodge #10. As a result, I was able to share in the brotherhood, attend meetings with local masonic lodges and more.

It was an honor to be one of the few, if not the only Prince Hall Mason from NJ to have successfully traveled and participated in London Masonic traditions. Many of the brothers I met within London indicated that it is extremely rare that they see a visitor from America, let alone one from Prince Hall. Every Mason I met was very welcoming and extremely gracious with their time. Unlike the documented Masonic history of our country, Race was not a determining factor in whether or not I was recognized as a Masonic brother in England. To that end, I hope that my presence there will be encouraging for others to visit, as it was not just me standing on the floor of Freemasons Hall in London, but in essence all of Prince Hall and those on both sides of the racial divide who fought for mutual recognition."

 

Statement by Roger Quintana, Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey

"There’s a divide but there’s no divide."

"In the Grand Lodge of New Jersey which I represent as its Deputy Grand Master we welcome brothers of all different nationalities, faiths. As a matter of fact, we have two African American lodges that are predominately African American brothers but they’re inclusive of all other nationalities. We also have a Hispanic lodge, we have a Filipino lodge and we have a doctor’s lodge compromised of professional medical doctors."

"It’s important to note that when the compact was signed in 2002 it was very important to Prince Hall that though we become equal, we remain as two separate lodges for the sole purpose of Prince Hall is preserving it culture, its heritage and its history—and we respect that."

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commented 2017-08-05 21:19:22 -0700
Alpha Lodge, in East Orange, NJ, was chartered in 1871, and admitted the first men of Color into it’s ranks in 1872. For most of it’s history Alpha Lodge was composed entirely of men of Color; Alpha Lodge was the first Lodge of men of Color with a charter, issued by a Regular State Grand Lodge in the United States.