Memorial Day Address 2011

The Prince Hall Cemetery

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pamela Meister, President
Arlington Historical Society

Welcome to all and especially to the members of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, who join us here this Memorial Day as they have for the last twenty-one years, to honor the memory of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge masons who are buried here.

In 1864 Grand Master William Kendall transferred ownership of this parcel of land to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge to serve as a cemetery for its members and their families. This cemetery was used for about forty years before falling into disuse and fading from public consciousness.

Memorial Day is a day in which we remember our dead. For those we knew, we do this because we loved and miss them. For others, we do this to learn from lives well-lived, and those lessons can shape our own lives.

Prince Hall, patriot, abolitionist and founder of the Grand Lodge that now bears his name, has been called one of the 100 most important African Americans. He was a champion of the right of African Americans to be educated, to enlist in the Army, and to be free and equal.

On June 24, 1797, Prince Hall delivered an address about slavery to the African Lodge in West Cambridge Massachusetts. There is a phrase in that speech which seems particularly apt for Memorial Day and for this cemetery:

Now, my brethren, nothing is stable; all things are changeable. Let us seek those things which are sure and steadfast, and let us pray God that, while we remain here, he would give us the grace of patience, and strength to bear up under all our troubles, which, at this day, God knows, we have our share of.

All things are changeable. Even this cemetery which was cherished, then forgotten, and is now remembered and honored. For twenty-one years we have worked together to make this cemetery and what it stands for be among those things which are sure and steadfast. The Prince Hall Mystic Cemetery is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is noted in Wikipedia. But it is important that we continue to cherish this cemetery.

We each arrive with our own concerns and we each learn from our time here. One small example how the past can affect the present happened last Memorial Day. Kirsten Greenidge is a playwright whose grandfather, Samuel Dance, was a Prince Hall Mason. Mr. Dance was a long-time Arlingtonian who helped plan and raise money for the commemoration. Our meeting at the cemetery led to “Dinner with the Marcy Family” one in a series of lectures the Society presented this year. Dinner with the Marcys depicted what life was like for several generations of an Arlington African American family.

All things are changeable and they should be. But too there are things which should be sure and steadfast. And I hope for many, many years to come, we will gather here and we will remember.