Susan Ellis (St. Croix Source) reports that hundreds of Freemasons and members of the Order of the Eastern Star from around the world convened on St. Croix last Saturday to celebrate establishing the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the Virgin Islands – incorporating lodges from the mainland and overseas.
Until now, members of the organization’s local lodges on St. Croix and St. Thomas were affiliated with grand lodges in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Maryland, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The V.I. Grand Lodge includes eight lodges from those areas. Gov. Kenneth Mapp and V.I. Brig. Gen. Deborah Howell greeted the 247 men in tuxedoes and women in royal blue gowns at a luncheon on Saturday at the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Resort and Spa.
Guest speaker Sen. Novelle Francis, Jr., talked about Virgin Islands history and its freedom fighters. He said that “our humanity transcends race and culture,” especially now, while the “nation is in turmoil.” He also spoke about the importance of serving the community, especially youth. “Young people are not learning because we adults are not setting good examples,” he said.
According to H. Hannibal O’Bryan, junior warden of the Kemet Lodge on St. Croix, there are about 40 Freemasons in the territory and 60 to 70 members of the Order of the Eastern Star, the women’s affiliate organization.
Alvin K. Wilkins, the most worshipful grand master or chief executive officer, from Bowie Maryland, said community service is the purpose of the organization, along with “building character and practicing charity.” Wilkins said his most important function is governance with a board of directors. He said members should “lead by example.”
In the future, the Prince Hall lodge plans to build community partnerships with the governor, the Legislature and others, Wilkins said. Already, Masons on St. Thomas have adopted several schools.
To join a lodge, prospects must be voted on by the membership after a background check, said Joy Petersen, grand secretary. “You’ve got to ask one, to be one,” O’Bryan put it, adding that new members are not solicited.
Freemasons believe in God, although the organization is non-denominational. They are not political and do not endorse candidates.
[. . .] Prince Hall, for whom the V.I. lodge was named, was an abolitionist and leader of the Black community in Boston. Born sometime in 1735, he died Dec. 7, 1807 after being initiated into Masonry with 14 other free colored men in 1775. He formed the African Grand Lodge of North America in 1784 and served as its grand master until his death.
[Above, an unattributed portrait of Prince Hall (1735-1807); public domain image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Hall#/media/File:Prince_hall_portrait.jpg.]