By Chux Odoh
The family of Late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, has said the controversial eulogy delivered at the late singer’s funeral last week by Atlanta based clergyman, Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., which ‘criticized’ the Black Lives Matter movement and single mothers were “offensive and distasteful.”
Rev. Williams Jr, a black minister of the Salem Bible Church in Atlanta, delivered a fiery sermon at the Queen of Soul’s Detroit funeral Friday, where he lamented how black America was losing its “soul” and is being hindered by a large percentage of single black women leading households and raising children alone.
“Rev. Jasper Williams spent more than 50 minutes speaking and at no time did he properly eulogize her, We found the comments to be offensive and distasteful,” said Vaughn Franklin, the soul singer’s nephew, in a statement made to BuzzFeed News on Monday on behalf of his family.
Vaughn said that his aunt never asked for Williams to deliver her funeral address, “because dying is a topic that she never discussed with anyone.” He said the family only asked the pastor to perform the eulogy because he had memorialized other family members, including Aretha Franklin’s father, minister and civil rights activist C.L. Franklin. He went on to suggest that his aunt would have prefered more outstanding individuals like Rev. Al Sharpton to deliver her eulogy.
During the elaborate ceremony honouring the 76-year-old’s life, Williams described children raised without a father as “abortion after birth.”
“Seventy percent of our households are led by our precious, proud, fine, black women,” he echoed. “But as proud, beautiful and fine as our black women are, one thing a black woman cannot do — a black woman cannot raise a black boy to be a man.”
Many criticized the pastor for degrading the hard work of single mothers as Aretha Franklin, who died last month from pancreatic cancer, raised four boys on her own as a single mother.
In another controversial statement, the minister told mourners, “black lives do not matter…must not matter” until black people start respecting “black lives and stop killing ourselves.”
“Black lives can never matter,” he barked, sparking a counter from Singer Stevie Wonder, who yelled back, “black lives matter.”
Williams, however, has strongly defended his comments saying that while he respects and understands the family’s position and is “sorry they feel that way,” he believes that his comments have been misunderstood and taken out of context.
“I was trying to show that the movement now is moving and should move in a different direction,” he told the Associated Press. “… What we need to do is create respect among ourselves. Aretha is the person with that song ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ that is laid out for us and what we need to be as a race within ourselves. We need to show each other that. We need to show each other respect. That was the reason why I did it,” Rev Williams Jr. said.
He told the AP that he believes those who are criticising him did not understand the point he was making about the state of “black America” and the pressing need to “step up and turn our race around.”
“I’m sure much of the negativity is due to the fact that they don’t understand what I’m talking about,” he said. “Anybody who thinks black America is all right as we are now is crazy. We’re not all right. It’s a lot of change that needs to occur. This change must come from within us. Nobody can give us things to eliminate where we are. We have to change from within ourselves.”
Making such a pointed address at the memorial of one of the world’s most distinguished singers, though, was inappropriate, her family contended.
“We feel that Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr. used this platform to push his negative agenda, which as a family, we do not agree with,” Vaughn Franklin said. “It has been very, very distasteful, which is unfortunate because everyone else who participated in the ceremony was very respectful.”