Black Spirituality Religion : Freemasonry & What It Means to Black Men: Part I

Jahari Kavi

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Below is the first piece of a series of blogs that I will be writing on Freemasonry and what it means to Black Men



"We have far as possible, closed every avenue by which light may enter the slaves mind...If we could extinguish the capacity to see the light,our work would be complete; they would be then on a level with the beast of the field and we should be safe."



- Henry Berry speaking at the Virginia House of Delegates on January 11,1832


The words above have been quoted by several scholars over the years, but what many have failed to do is to provide the historical context which surrounded the words given by House Speaker Henry Berry. One afternoon while sitting in a graduate class, my distinguished and late professor Dr. Blaine Hudson referenced these words given by Henry Berry in one of his lectures on the history of African American education. Dr. Hudson informed the class that the speech took place shortly after Nat Turner's rebellion in Virginia in August of 1831. The historic uprisings carried out by Nat Turner and other enslaved Africans were significant, not only because they were successful in taking the lives of 50-60 of their white oppressors, but also because of how they were instrumental in catching the attention of white slave owners across the United States. The question of what to do with an enslaved population of people who continued to resist against their oppressive circumstances had taken white America by storm, so much so that an official meeting was called at the Virginia House of Delegates in 1832. The necessity to answer this question with expedience was also due to the impact of the Haitian Revolution, which ended earlier in the century. Both Europe and America were both realizing that they were beginning to suffer the consequences of enslavement and were rushing to find solutions to the “Slave Problem.”

After reading the quote out loud and providing a historical context of the events leading up to Berry’s famous speech, Dr. Hudson began to explain that Berry was referring to access to public education when he mentioned “the light.” Initially my admiration and respect for Dr.Hudson would not allow me to question him in front of my peers. I was familiar with the quote and had even used it myself earlier in the semester, when teaching an undergraduate class on Freemasonry and Islam. I knew that what Mr. Berry was referring to was not public education - but instead the ancient tradition of Freemasonry.Eventually I gathered up enough fortitude to raise my hand and question Dr.Hudson on what Berry meant by using the term “the light.” After hearing my explanation Dr. Hudson paused for a moment and proceeded to say, “you could be right” with a look of certainty across his face. A feeling of relief came over me, not only because I didn’t want to get embarrassed by my professor in front of the class, but also because I had now gotten reassurance from one of the most amazing minds that I had ever came in contact with. Yes, what Henry Berry was referring to was Freemasonry, but now the question of, “why was it so important to keep it away from African people?” began to consume my mind. Why was this ancient system of rituals, symbols, and secrecy being discussed among elitist white men and why were they so adamant about making sure that enslaved Africans would never have the capacity to comprehend it? My personal obsession to answer these questions eventually lead to me joining a lodge and traveling to gain further insight on the mysteries of the craft and its significance to people of African descent.


"Having soon discovered to be great, I must appear so, and therefore studiously avoided mixing in society, and wrapped myself in mystery, devoting my time to fasting and prayer--By this time, having arrived to man's estate, and hearing the scriptures commented on at meetings, I was struck with that particular passage which says : "Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven and all things shall be added unto you." I reflected much on this passage, and prayed daily for light on this subject--As I was praying one day at my plough, the spirit spoke to me, saying "Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven and all things shall be added unto you." Question--what do you mean by the Spirit? Answer --The Spirit that spoke to the prophets in former days--and I was greatly astonished, and for two years prayed continually, whenever my duty would permit--and then again I had the same revelation, which fully confirmed me in the impression that I was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty."



- Nat Turner's Confession





If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.



Thomas Fuller


I've wrestled with myself over how to approach this series of notes on Freemasonry and what it means to men of the African Diaspora. There are several approaches one can use in taking on such a task, because of the richness of the craft. Due to its complexity, I have decided to focus these series of notes on the historical, cultural, philosophical, and political components of Freemasonry in the African Diaspora. What this series will reveal are not any secrets of the craft as we know it today, but instead will enlighten those on the outside looking in and hopefully Brothers within the craft as well. While social media and YouTube have assisted in providing the public with some insight on Freemasonry, they have also given access to anyone to spread false information and accusations about the history and purpose of The Craft. There are some in the Black community who have a distrust of the fraternal organization, because of the Alex Jone’s and David Icke’s of the world. I’m writing in hopes of providing clarification and to highlight the important role that masonry has played in the history of African people from antiquity to contemporary times. Seeing as how I have already given some insight on my personal reasons for becoming a Mason, I thought what better way to start this series than to give an account of another Black man who joined The Craft? The following quote is from a Brother who I have a great deal of respect for as an intellectual, in addition to him being an outstanding human being and fellow Brother. I promised this individual anonymity, so that he could be honest about why freemasonry is important to him as a Black man.



The Afrakan in the west has been stripped of their history, and culture.Freemasonry, even though drafted for the European/Caucasian, points to and is reminiscent of Afrakan wisdom and philosophy. Used from an Afrakan centered perspective, it can awaken and reaffirm what we have lost and forgotten. Since slavery in the west, the only viable organizations for the Afrakan have been the Church and the Lodge. Although both have become uninfluential as of late (in a positive, productive and progressive way) these social organisms can serve as a unifying and restructuring of our efforts toward the total emancipation and liberation of the Afrakan Diaspora. The awakening of our people is of the most importance. Thru right knowledge (which Freemasonry fosters) the political climate of the people as a whole can begin to counter white supremacy and regain our rightful place. Freemasonry by design brings you closer to the divine within. Alchemical, moral and ethical concepts are reflected upon. The Afrakan for the last 500 years have been other than ourselves. Sankofa is in order!





Peace and save travels.
 

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jamesfrmphilly

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"We have far as possible, closed every avenue by which light may enter the slaves mind...If we could extinguish the capacity to see the light,our work would be complete; they would be then on a level with the beast of the field and we should be safe."



- Henry Berry speaking at the Virginia House of Delegates on January 11,1832
the product of a sick mind and a diseasd morality.
 

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