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In his eulogy for Aretha Franklin, Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. of Salem Bible Church in Atlanta said it’s time to “turn Black America around.”
USA TODAY

NEW YORK – The late Aretha Franklin’s family said Monday that it found an Atlanta pastor’s eulogy delivered Friday at the Queen of Soul’s funeral to be offensive and distasteful.

The eulogist, the Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., was criticized for a political address that described children being in a home without a father as “abortion after birth” and said black lives do not matter unless blacks stop killing each other. 

“He spoke for 50 minutes and at no time did he properly eulogize her,” said Vaughn Franklin, the late singer’s nephew, who said he was delivering a statement for the family.

Franklin said that his aunt never asked Williams to eulogize her, since she didn’t talk about plans for her own funeral. The family selected Williams because he has spoken at other family memorials in the past, most prominently at the funeral for Franklin’s father, minister and civil rights activist C.L. Franklin, 34 years ago.

Williams hasn’t backed down from anything he said at the funeral, and said he respects the family’s opinion. “I understand it,” he said. “I regret it. But I’m sorry they feel that way.”

Besides a social media uproar, Williams heard resistance at the funeral itself. Singer Stevie Wonder yelled out, “Black lives matter!” after the pastor said, “No, black lives do not matter” during his eulogy.

Williams had minimized the Black Lives Matter movement because of black-on-black crime. “Black lives must not matter until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves.”

He also said that a black woman cannot raise a black boy to be a man. Some people suggested that was disrespectful of Aretha Franklin, a single mother of four boys.

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His eulogy “caught the entire family off guard,” Vaughn Franklin said. The family had not discussed what Williams would say in advance.

“It has been very, very distasteful,” he said. He said it was unfortunate because everyone else who participated in the ceremony was very respectful.

Earlier in the weekend, Williams told the Associated Press that his sermon felt right, especially after other speakers spoke on the civil rights movement and President Donald Trump.

“I was trying to show that the movement now is moving and should move in a different direction,” he said by phone on Sunday. “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.”

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Even though Williams spoke for nearly 50 minutes of the eight-hour funeral, the pastor said he didn’t have enough time to delve deep into his sermon. He said he will expound more on his sermon and how Franklin was originally named the “Queen of Soul” for the next two Sundays at his church.

“I think if she’s immortalized, she should be immortalized,” he said. “If we can turn black America around, it would be the greatest and best immortalization we could properly give to her for what she did for black America and the world when she lived.”

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