“Allah is He Who made subservient to you the sea that the ships may glide therein by His command, and that you may seek of His grace, and that you may give thanks. And He has made subservient to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, all, from Himself. Surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect.” –
Holy Qur’an, Surah 45, verses 12-13

In the opening of the Honorable Minister Farrakhan’s address on the Holy Day of Atonement, at the Tampa, Florida, Convention Center on October 17, 2010, he spoke about the beauty of the city of Tampa and its buildings which are located alongside the magnificent Tampa Bay Harbors. However, he sadly spoke about the deplorable conditions of its Black populace, in particular, lying in ruins. As he was speaking, I pictured in my mind scenes of the Nile Valley in Egypt housing magnificent buildings and temples while its slave population was living in the muck and mire of degradation being at the bottom rung of the aristocratic rulers and elite Egyptian society. Those scenes are described in the Bible’s Book of Exodus giving us a picture of what we look like today in modern Egypt (America). The site of the Shriners headquarter administrative building, with its Masonic symbols of the fez bearing the crescent and the star and its upside down scimitar on the top, is mounted on the outside wall at the entrance of the building.

This is the plaque that identifies the gentleman that the sisters met at the Shriners Temple, Mr. Robert W. Goodin, Potentate, in Tampa, Florida. Photos: Callie Muhammad

Before traveling to Tampa from Mexico, I was in communication with my son, Ishmael, who was overviewing the city’s location and site of the Convention Center, accompanied by a few brothers in preparation for the upcoming convention. While speaking to him on the phone, he suddenly stated in amazement that he was passing in front of the headquarters building complex of the International Shriners in Tampa. I felt an immediate surge of energy and confidence that if Allah would bless me to be there that I would visit this site and learn more about its history. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, during the early part of his speech mentioned my name in conjunction with a few other sisters who had researched some of the buildings and monuments on the Washington Mall in preparation for the Million Man March. He also referred to the first president, George Washington, as being a Shriner. I knew then that it was almost imperative that if time would permit before my departure, I would hopefully visit this site.

The Temple Officers of the Egyptian Shriners Temple in 1939 dressed in their oriental regalia.

As I have reported in the last several articles, a group of sisters, and myself, visited the Shriners Headquarters the next day and were surprised at the knowledge and information that was on display. While visiting the Shriners Temple Mosque Building, a short distance away, we again gained access through the entrance building, even though its offices were closed for business at that hour. Yet, the entrance door was opened, and as we entered the hallway, an elderly gentleman was coming down the corridor on his way out of the building and pleasantly greeted us and assured us that we could remain in the building and see the collection of the many photos of the Shriners and their history that was displayed all along the hallway adjoined to their event rooms which were also open. No one else was present nor were there guards or security. The gentleman whom we met in the hallway introduced himself to us as the Grand Potentate of this temple and its complex. He gave us all his business cards and following a brief discussion relative to the few questions we raised, he departed and we began our tour through the long corridors displaying photos showing the Shriners regalia, fezes and parade ceremonies with their oriental décor and garb. Many of their photos showed their oriental bands and festivities, including their community charitable works and services.

The history of the Shriners and their service-orientated activities are traced back to New York City. A Shriner must first be a Master Mason but not all masons are Shriners. The basic unit of masonry is the Blue Lodge where members earn the first three Masonic degrees. The highest degree is Master Mason. The red fez with the black tassel is one of the fraternity’s most distinctive symbols. It is derived from the place where it was first manufactured, the City of Fez, Morrocco. The fez was chosen as part of the Shriner’s Arabic theme, which is also the basis for the color and pageantry of the organization’s events.

The Shriners International is composed solely of Master Masons, first organized by Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and an artist, Billy Florence, an actor. It was in New York City in 1872 when these gentlemen and a few others met with an Arab diplomat who assisted in opening up a chapter connected to Arabia and thus formed the first Mecca Shriners and formed the Imperial Council of the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Membership increased across the United States in the early 1900s and spread to Canada, Mexico and Panama. In conclusion, quoting from the Shriners booklet, The Ultimate Guide, we read: “Shrine Guilds of America, established in 1947, provides independent support and aid to Shriners Hospitals for Children and concentrates on the education of children during their hospitalization. Order of the Eastern Star started in the mid-1800s is the largest fraternal organization for men and women in the world. The organization strives to strengthen the moral and social character of its members and it contributes to numerous charities.”

“Tell those who believe to forgive those who fear not the days of Allah that He may reward a people for what they earn. Whoever does good it is for himself, and whoever does evil, it is against himself; then to your Lord you will be brought back.”Holy Qur’an, Surah 45, verses 14-15

To be continued.