Note from BW of Brazil: It’s been years that I’ve been wanting to discuss this particular topic and before even getting into, I know that it will probably only appeal to a small group of people. The masses, judging from my own experiences and that of others, rarely even bother to consider that the world as we know may be run by highly organized secret societies. I don’t know why. Talk of secret societies isn’t simply conspiracy theory, it is outright conspiracy. How would such an order of the world keep pushing the planet in its current and past direction without the force of a “tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.” That last phrase was taken from a speech by President John F. Kennedy, who tried to warn people that such entities existed and that “we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings” in which plans for the New World are planned.
President Woodrow Wilson also knew something when he said that:
“Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.”
When people read these types of comments, I often wonder what they these two presidents were talking about. One of the most controversial organizations that could describe what they were talking about are the Freemasons. I’m sure many of us have heard at least a little about this organization, fraternity, religion or whatever you choose to label it. “Oh, that’s just a club that does good things for the community,” some people think, while others see it as a far more sinister organization that has played a role in some of the most important world events in history.
But what does this have to do with a blog that discusses race in Brazil, you might be asking. I’ll get to that, bear with me. My interest in this topic came from conversations I use to have a long-time friend of mine back in Detroit. During some of our sometimes hours long conversations, we would often ponder why it was that it seemed that the condition of the African-American community, as a whole, never seemed to improve. Oh sure there were numerous black millionaires and even a few billionaires, but why weren’t they banding their power and resources together to push forward the aspirations of the black community?, we pondered.
Years later, I stumbled across a possible answer. It’s called the Boule. A black order of freemasons modeled after the infamous Yale University Skull & Bones fraternity. Pronounced “boo-lay”, it is said to be a group of “advisors to the king” from Ancient Greece. Applied to the situation of African-Americans, the fraternity represents an elite of black people who pledge to keep the masses of African-Americans in “their place” while they earn generous rewards individually for maintaining a global system of white supremacy. Interestingly, it is said that one of the Boule’s objectives was to keep professional blacks away from Marcus Garvey’s black empowerment movement of the time.
Sounds fair-fetched, right? Of course it does, but this only because, in general, people don’t really believe that such an agenda and such evil could possibly exist in our world. But even those who have the power to speak up, such as the two aforementioned presidents, have attempted to reveal that such a power does in fact exist. In 1956, J. Edgar Hoover, the infamous FBI director, went even further by revealing not only that this powerful force is in fact evil but that most people can’t fathom its existence. In his words:
“The individual is handicapped by coming face-to-face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot it exists. The American mind simply has not come to a realization of the evil which has been introduced into our midst. It rejects even the assumption that human creatures could espouse a philosophy which must ultimately destroy all that is good and decent.”
So, when people like the late researcher/lecturer Steve Cokely tried to tell us that wherever there are prominent black professionals, they’re probably Boule members, this most likely didn’t register with most folks. Just like when Cokely also told us that a certain revered “Civil Rights Leader” played a key role in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King back in 1968, most people probably dismissed this as well. The thing is, we do in fact have mainstream sources that confirm such organizations exist. The LA Times did a report on the Boule back in 1990. In his 1999 book, Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class, Lawrence Otis Graham also discusses his membership in the Boule.
The list of names said to belong to the Boule is pretty extensive and too long to list here, but just a few of those names include people like Civil Rights leader Whitney Young, Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, publisher John H. Johnson, publisher Earl Graves, Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson, LA mayor Tom Bradley, Detroit mayor Dennis Archer and countless other celebrities, athletes, businessmen, etc. So we know the society does exist. The question is, does it have a sworn duty to maintain black masses in their place on the bottom of the socio-economic ladder? I guess that’s for you to consider.
Today, I wanted to present a text on a few prominent black Brazilian freemasons, past and present. As it turns out, one of them I’ve already met with on a number of ocassions. I never knew he was a freemason, nor what degree he was. Does that automatically mean he’s a sellout and works against the best interest of the Afro-Brazilian community? Too many factors to consider to answer that question, including the degree he has attained with the freemasonry hierarchy. Whatever the case may be, check the article below. It could prove to be key to understanding the position of black Brazil, especially with more Afro-Brazilians ascending the social ladder and the recent calls for the practice of “black money”.
Freemasons: yesterday and today
By Flávio Carrança
(Photo: Black Brazilian masons: Francisco Ge Acaiaba Montezuma, Joaquim Saldanha Marinho, José do Patrocínio, Francisco de Paula Brito, Luís Gama, Nilo Peçanha, Francisco Glicério and Marco José da Silva)
A study by São Paulo historian Célia Maria Marinho de Azevedo reveals the central role that black Freemasons played in the struggles for citizenship and equal rights for ‘people of color’, which happened when Brazil was still in formation. And, as important protagonists of the abolitionist process, what do blacks currently linked to this order do to help the black population to overcome the problems arising from the existence of racism in our country?
Strongly influenced by Enlightenment, modern Freemasonry adopts the motto Freedom, Equality, Fraternity, immortalized by the French Revolution. In their lodges, which are their base organizations, the ‘brothers’ meet regularly to discuss the most varied topics and, in some way, become better citizens and contribute to a better society.
Present in the country since the colonial period, Freemasonry for a long time had a strong influence on the country’s political course. What did engineer André Rebouças, journalist José do Patrocínio; magistrate João Maurício Wanderley – Barão de Cotegipe, lawyer Luiz Gama; composer Antonio Carlos Gomes, diplomat Rui Barbosa de Oliveira, politician Francisco Glicério, President Nilo Peçanha and poet Castro Alves all have in common? All were Afro-descendants and Freemasons: the presence of many elite black men among 19th century Brazilian Freemasons drew the attention of historian Célia Maria Marinha de Azevedo, who realized the importance of studying the histories of Freemasonry and the ‘people of color’ at the time of slavery in an articulated way.
From this study came the book Maçonaria, Anti-Racismo e Cidadania (Freemasonry, Anti-Racism and Citizenship) was born, released by the publisher Annablume. The work focuses on three characters:
Francisco Ge Acaiaba Montezuma, the Viscount of Jequitinhonha; Francisco de Paula Brito – typographer, journalist and editor, founder of the renowned Petalógica literary society; and Joaquim Saldanha Marinho – Republican leader and grand master of the Grand Orient of Brazil. “It was by researching the lives and writings of illustrious Freemasons that I realized that there was an important anti-racist dimension in their struggles for citizenship rights”, says Célia, adding that for Paula Brito, as well as for many other Brazilians of African descent who lived between 1830 and 1870, it was essential to enforce the rights recorded in the 1824 Constitution, which did not distinguish the ‘colors’ of its citizens, but only ‘their talents and virtues’. “It is clear that slaves were not included here, that is, an immense part of the population that did not exist in that monarchical constitution”, emphasizes the historian.
The anti-racist struggle of those black Freemasons of the mid-19th century sought to prevent the reaffirmation of a public racial hierarchy, inherited from the Portuguese. They were against the classification of the colors of citizens precisely because they feared that they would be prevented from occupying positions, from making administrative and professional careers. “At the time of the Portuguese, in addition to the segregated military regiments (pretos/blacks, pardos/browns and brancos/whites), it was necessary to ask for exemption from ‘defect of color’ to occupy certain public positions and this, of course, was still very fresh in the memory of those who worked in these first decades of independent Brazil “, informs Célia.
“ONE OF THE THINGS THAT FREEMASONRY PREACHES IS EQUALITY IN ALL SENSES, THEN, THERE IS NO PREJUDICE, THERE IS NOTHING THAT SAYS THERE IS A REJECTION OR A WAY TO STEREOTYPE”
ANTECHAMBER OF NATIONAL DEBATES
In the turbulent period of the country’s political life, Freemasonry played an important role in preparing new leaders of various tendencies, at a time when the parties were not yet mass organizations. Freemasonry – which has an organizational structure similar to the democratic state, divided into executive, legislative and judicial – was a unique space for important discussions: “It would be interesting to think of Freemasonry as a kind of antechamber to parliamentary debates, where divisions, rapprochements, alliances were experimented, which in turn were tested publicly in Parliament and whose results would have repercussions once again in Masonic spaces”, says Célia.
It is worth remembering that the 1830s marked the appearance of a public space in the country, when political activity ceased to be the exclusive preserve of offices and the world of the streets won. It’s the time of the regencies, in which the country’s agitated political life is marked by the presence of three currents of opinion: moderate liberals (who came to power shortly after the abdication of Empreror Dom Pedro I); exalted liberals (closer to popular demands and divided between republicans and constitutional monarchists); and the caramurus (who preached the return of Emperor Dom Pedro I).
Francisco de Paula Brito was an exalted man. Born in a modest family in Rio de Janeiro, in 1809, he became a typographer and worked in printers until 1831, when he opened his own typography at the age of 22. In September 1833, from Paula Brito’s Tipografia Fluminense, came the newspaper O Homem de Cor (The Man of Color). It was the second title of an ‘exalted’ militant press, advocate of citizenship free from racist legal restrictions, which started with O Filho da Terra and continued with O Cabrito, O Meia Cara, O Crioulinho and O Crioulo.
Remembered in history books as an important politician of the Second Reign – but not as black – Francisco Montezuma was born in Salvador, Bahia, in 1794. It is not known whether his African origin came from his mother or father. In addition to becoming an opposition politician, Montezuma dedicated himself to introducing the Rito Escocês Antigo e Aceito (Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite) into Brazil, which increased the number of senior positions in lodges. According to Célia, the issue of rites is important, since the daily life of the lodges is organized around them. The Rito Escocês (Scottish Rite) expanded rapidly, possibly to meet the desires of many humble Freemasons, who could thus reach higher levels on merit rather than birth.
Mutual assistance support – another feature of Scottish Freemasonry – may also have been a factor of attraction.
In the work, Celia also reports the great transnational debate about the discrimination suffered by black Freemasons in the United States, shortly after the Civil War, which began 1868 when the Grand Orient of France supported the decision of the Supreme Council of Louisiana to admit black men as Freemason brothers in their lodges. When that debate arrived in the country, Brazilian Freemasons were divided into two political currents: Grande Oriente do Lavradio, led by José Maria da Silva Paranhos, the Baron of Rio Branco (who supported the American segregationists); and Grande Oriente dos Benedictinos, led by Joaquim Saldanha Marinho, from Pernambuco, who did not hesitate to support the French Grand Orient’s anti-racist decision.
“FREEMASONRY IS NOT A RELIGION, BUT A PHILOSOPHY. IN ALL LODGES THERE ARE CATHOLIC, EVANGELICAL, JEWISH, ARABIC… FREEMASONRY TRANSFORMS PEOPLE BECAUSE IT IS A PHILOSOPHY BASED ON FRATERNITY”
AND CURRENTLY IN BRAZIL …
More than a century and a half after the regency period, at the head of the largest Masonic organization in the country, the Grande Oriente do Brasil (GOB), based in BrasÍlia, the nation’s capital, is a black man: Grand Master General Marco José da Silva. A carioca (native of Rio), a former management professor and retired Central Bank employee, he defines Freemasonry as an institution that has nothing to do with secrecy, geared to the improvement of man, and affirms that the fact of being black did not create problems for his rise in the order: “One of the things that Freemasonry preaches is equality in all senses, so there is no prejudice, there is nothing to say that there is a rejection or a way to stereotype,” says Marco.
Although he personally declares himself in favor of the racial quota policy, the GOB Grand Master says that the institution does not take a position on the theme: “As we have black and white Freemasons, Freemasonry does not have this kind of concern, nor does it have a policy to privilege indigenous people. What it seeks to do is equal opportunity for all men. It doesn’t have that concern, but it also doesn’t condemn,” he explains.
Another black man in a prominent position in Freemasonry is José Renato dos Santos, Deputy Grand Master of the Grande Loja Maçônica (Masonic Grand Lodge) of the State of São Paulo. Recalling that it was Freemasonry that worked the most for the liberation from slave labor in Brazil and also personally favorable to quotas, he considers that the majority of Freemasons today are against this policy. “They didn’t understand the quotas, which is a recent public policy in the country, necessary. Most Freemasons didn’t understand this.
They think it is a privilege”, he explains. He believes that there is some difficulty for blacks to enter Freemasonry because, in Brazil, only those who are invited enter the order: “As he has no contact with Freemasons, he has no access, he is cut off. This is a regulator,” he says. In fact, it is only in Brazil that this happens. In the United States, for example, you are the one who seeks and enters Freemasonry. José Renato also explains that there are no black-only Masonic organisms in Brazil, however, he was one of the creators, in the 1980s, of a study and work group called Grupo Três Pontos (G3P), made up of blacks from different Masonic powers.
And it was precisely the G3P that served as a gateway to Freemasonry for João Carlos B. Martins, president of the Afro-Brazilian Entrepreneurs Collective (Ceabra) and also a member of the Grand Lodge. He learned about Freemasonry through a group of blacks and went to work socially for the aggrandizement of the race. “Ceabra trains and provides books suitable for teachers who work to rescue children from the periphery of any color. We go there, we do the courses for the boys, who face great difficulties, don’t have much life expectancy anymore. We give them a little hope,” he explains.
From this group, three (venerable) lodge presidents emerged: Adilson Charles dos Santos, the late José Carlos de Oliveira, from the Novos Obreiros lodge, and João Carlos himself, who, even after the G3P was ‘asleep’, continued with the works. “Nowadays we have 10 blacks in my Mestre Pescador lodge in a family of 60 brothers, which is a lot, because, usually, the normal thing is to have one or two. Above that, on a philosophical level, we have a lodge called José do Patrocínio, which I also preside over, where 80% are black,” comments João Carlos, who has a connection with the Prince Hall Lodges of Oregon, Idaho and Montana, of black American Masonry, a representation for exchange.
Brazilian Freemasonry also maintains contact with the African brothers through maestro Roberto Casemiro, from the stable bodies of the Municipal Theater of São Paulo. A freemason for 28 years, he joined the order at the invitation of a French professor at Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP), where he studied and graduated. Casemiro reveals that, through contacts made with a member of Dutch Freemasonry who was in Brazil, he had access to the brothers from Togo, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, in the Gulf of Guinea. “Our dream, in the future, is to bring this other type of Freemasonry, which even Freemasons don’t know, because it is so distant: the Freemasons of Africa and the Middle East, which are very strong”, he speculates.
The maestro, who is now in the Grand Orient of São Paulo, reminds that Freemasonry is not a religion, but a philosophy. In all lodges there are Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Arabic… “Freemasonry transforms people because it is a philosophy based on fraternity. Everything that is offered to everyone, we also started to share. I see a reflection in my professional life, because, especially in the adversities, in great moments that I went through, I received solidarity from many brothers. The brother has a commitment to help you,” concludes Roberto.