Where was the respect?
Aretha Franklin’s family has issued an angry response to the “offensive and distasteful” sermon delivered by the Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. at her funeral on Friday, in which he criticized single motherhood and belittled the Black Lives Matter movement.
“He spoke for 50 minutes and at no time did he properly eulogize her,” said Vaughn Franklin, the late singer’s nephew, in a statement delivered for the family, adding, “We found the comments to be offensive and distasteful.”
Franklin told the Associated Press the family selected Williams because he had spoken at the funeral for Franklin’s father, minister and civil-rights activist C.L. Franklin, 34 years ago, but that his supposed eulogy, “caught the entire family off guard,” and was “very, very distasteful.”
During the funeral, Williams prompted outrage after he described children being in a home without a father as “abortion after birth,” which was widely seen as deeply disrespectful of Franklin, a single mother who raised four boys.
In another shocking moment, which saw him accused of hijacking the celebrations to promote “conservative black respectability politics,” Williams belittled the Black Lives Matter movement of which Franklin was a tireless supporter.
Williams implied the movement was irrelevant in the face of black-on-black crime, saying: “Black lives must not matter until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves.”
Stevie Wonder yelled out “black lives matter” in response.
Wonder followed his musical tribute to Franklin with reasoned and calm words about the movement.
“We can talk about all the things that are wrong and there are many but the only thing that can deliver us is love. So what needs to happen today not only in this nation but throughout the world is that we need to make love great again,” Wonder said, “Because black lives do matter, because all lives do matter and if we love God then we know truly that it is our love that will make all things matter, when we make love great again.”
Williams, in a subsequent interview, doubled down on his sermon, saying, “I think Stevie Wonder did not understand what I said. I said blacks do not matter, because black lives cannot matter, will not matter, should not matter, must not matter until black people begin to respect their own lives. Then and only then will black lives matter. That’s what I said, and again, and again, and again. We need to have respect for each other. Once we start doing that, then we can begin to change.”
Franklin told AP the pastor’s comments were “unfortunate” because everyone else who participated in the ceremony was very respectful.
Reuters also received a statement from the family that said Williams used the “platform to push his negative agenda,” which Franklin’s family “does not agree with.”