Aretha Franklin‘s family have spoken out about comments made during the singer’s eulogy, calling them “offensive and distasteful”.
The soul singer was buried on Friday (August 31), with her funeral taking place at the Detroit Greater Grace Temple. She died on August 16 following a battle with pancreatic cancer, aged 76 years old.
Reverend Jasper Williams Jr. delivered the eulogy at the service, in which he discussed the state of black America, including black-on-black crime and killings. “If you choose to ask me today ‘do black lives matter?’, let me answer like this: No, black lives do not matter.
“Black lives will not matter. Black lives out not matter. Black lives should not matter, black lives must not matter until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves. Black lives can never matter.”
He also commented on single parenting, saying: “A black woman cannot raise a black boy to be a man. Right in your own neighbourhoods, where your church is, there are struggling single mums that don’t know what to do.”
He continued: “That needs a man in the house. Through mentoring programmes and parenting our children, we can turn black American around. The Queen Of Soul has spoken now, time now for black America to come back home.”
In a statement, Franklin’s nephew, Vaughn Franklin, criticised Williams’ comments. “Rev. Jasper Williams spent more than 50 minutes speaking and at no time did he properly eulogise her,” he said. “We feel that Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. used this platform to push his negative agenda, which, as a family, we do not agree with.”
The Reverend was chosen, according to Vaughn, because he had given the eulogies for Franklin’s father, brother, and sister. “My aunt did not ask Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. to eulogise her before she passed away because dying is a topic that she never discussed with anyone.
“However, there were several people that my aunt admired that would have been outstanding individuals to deliver her eulogy including Dr. William J. Barber, Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Rev. James Holley, and Pastor E.L. Branch.”
At a news conference given before the family’s statement was released, Williams addressed criticism of his eulogy, saying Franklin trusted him and had chosen him to speak at her funeral. He attempted to clarify his comments about single mothers, saying he did not mean they were unable to raise their children.
“I’m talking about many single women struggling to raise their children and in the black community there is no mentoring for the children,” he said. “And that when a boy is there, for example, and 70-plus percent of our households are headed by our precious women and as precious, beautiful, and proud as they are, they cannot teach a boy how to be a man.”
Of his Black Lives Matter comments, he said: “I’m saying that when we, as a race, sit back and get mad if a police officer kills one of us, and we don’t say anything when 100 of us are killed by us that something is wrong with that. I’m not saying that black lives do not matter in terms of the worth of a black life, but what I’m saying, in essence, is that it does not matter, ought not matter, should not matter, cannot matter until black people begin to – Aretha – R-E-S-P-E-C-T, respect black lives. Only then will black lives matter.”
Asked if he thought Franklin would approve of his eulogy, he replied: “Because of the great contributor that she was to the civil rights movement and all that she gave, I would think that if I’m doing something to turn black America around, that she would be pleased.”
Franklin’s funeral was live-streamed online, with select parts broadcast on TV in America. It featured performances and tributes from Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande, Chaka Khan, Jennifer Hudson, Gladys Knight, and more.