A number of people spoke, celebrated, and performed at Aretha Franklin’s funeral this past weekend to honor her life and legacy. Former presidents, professional athletes, and A-list musicians were just a few of the well-known names who commemorated the Queen of Soul.
Now, Aretha Franklin’s family is speaking out, saying the eulogy Rev. Jasper Williams Jr delivered at Franklin’s funeral was offensive and insensitive, and did not properly eulogize the Queen of Soul.
How has the reverend responded to the statements? Read on.
1. He Stands By His Sermon & Says It Was Appropriate
Rev. Williams Jr. has stood by his sermon. In an interview with the AP this weekend, he said, “I was trying to show that the movement now is moving and should move in a different direction,” he said. “… 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.”
What were the parts of his sermon that sparked the controversy? At one point during his eulogy, Williams said that black America had “lost its soul”; and many thought it was an inappropriate time to make such a statement.
He went on to say, “As bad as the days as Jim Crow and segregation were … it forced us to each other instead of forcing us on each other. We quickly come to realize that as a people, all we really have is one another,” Williams said in the sermon.
2. He Received Backlash on Social Media
Williams Jr. received plenty of backlash on social media, specifically Twitter, for his sermon. Franklin Leonard said of Williams, “Apparently his name is Reverend Jasper Williams Jr, pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta. I hope that’s the last time I hear that name.”
Another Twitter user referenced his words: “A black woman cannot raise a black boy to become a man.” He wrote, “Who invited this Trump-loving, misogynistic motherf*cker from a bygone era?”
3. He Described Children at Home Without a Father as ‘Abortion After Birth’
Among the many offensive things that Rev. Williams said in his eulogy was his statement that described children living in a home without a father as “abortion after birth.”
People also took issue with his words on the Black Lives Matter movement– he said “black lives do not matter unless blacks stop killing each other,” writes The Detroit Free Press.
It was at the point when Williams said “No, black lives do not matter” that Stevie Wonder himself yelled out, “black lives matter!” from the crowd.
4. Many People Took His Comments About Black Women Raising Children to Be Directly Offensive to Aretha
During his speech, Williams said, “Seventy percent of our households are led by our precious, proud, fine black women. 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. She can’t do that. She can’t do that.”
Aretha Franklin, as many know, raised four boys by herself. Because of her life as a single mother, many people found Williams’ statement– that “a black woman cannot raise a black boy to be a man” to directly target the late Queen of Soul.
Speaking of the eulogy, Vaughn Franklin, Aretha’s Franklin nephew, said the sermon “caught the entire family off guard.”
During a press conference on Sunday, Williams’ was asked about the aforementioned statement. He responded, per WSB-TV:
“The way that you are internalizing that they felt is incorrect. I did not mean they are unable to raise their children. I am talking about many single women struggling to raise their children. And in the black community, there is no mentoring for the children and that when a boy is there, for example, and when 70 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.
“So one of the ails and ills we have in the African-American community is that too many of our homes are headed by women without men in the house. Now, it’s been too many women who have raised excellent men. Jesse Jackson, one of my dearest friends, was raised by a single mom. But the women need help in their homes and our race needs to become sensitive to that.”
5. He Is the Reverend at the Salem Bible Church in Atlanta
Rev. Williams is the reverend at Salem Bible Church in Atlanta. On Sunday, he held a press conference at his church to defend his eulogy.
If he has made anything clear, it’s that he does not intend to let the backlash he has received cloud his thinking or affect him in any negative way. The Atlanta pastor said, ““I know it’s controversial… When you’re criticized as much as I’ve been, you don’t let it get to you…I know where my heart and head are, and I’m willing to explain and talk about it.”