- By Shelia Poole The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Aretha Franklin’s family has issued a statement saying the eulogy delivered by Atlanta pastor Jasper Williams Jr. was “offensive and distasteful.”
Williams, pastor emeritus, of Salem Bible Church, was heavily criticized for the eulogy in which he focused on what he saw as ills in the black community, rather than the life of the award-winning Franklin.
“I want to speak on behalf of the Franklin family as it relates to the comments that Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr. made on Friday during my aunt’s [Aretha Franklin] Celebration of Life service on Friday, August 31,” the singer’s nephew, Vaughn Franklin, said in a statement. “We found the comments to be offensive and distasteful. “
He also disputes that Franklin personally asked for Williams to deliver the eulogy.
Here’s the rest of the statement:
“Rev. Jasper Williams spent more than 50 minutes speaking and at no time did he properly eulogize her [Aretha Franklin].
My aunt did not ask Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr. to eulogize her before she passed away because dying is a topic that she never discussed with anyone.
Our family asked Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr. to perform the eulogy because he eulogized our grandfather [Rev. C. L. Franklin], my aunt [Erma Franklin], and my uncle [Cecil Franklin]. 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.
We feel that Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr. used this platform to push his negative agenda, which as a family, we do not agree with.”
During the eulogy, which came near the end of an hours-long service, Williams, 76, spoke on single black women raising sons, black on black crime and seemed to criticize the parenting of the Rev. C.L. Franklin.
Many found it disturbing that he addressed single women raising sons, when Franklin raised her four sons.
While some may have agreed with his statements, they said the funeral was not the place or time to air his concerns and that he failed to address the systemic causes that contribute to issues in the black community.
Williams has stood by his eulogy delivered Friday in Detroit.
“When you’re criticized as much as I’ve been, you don’t let it get to you,” Williams said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constituion. “I know where my heart and head are, and I’m willing to explain and talk about it.”
“I saw what is happening in black America today that is really leading us to lose our soul, so to speak,” he said.
“Eulogies are not let me get this off my chest speeches,” said Teresa Fry Brown, the Bandy Professor of Preaching at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, in a critique on her Facebook page. She never mentioned Williams by name and also said she had issues with other speakers as well. “Eulogies are not let me see what dirt I can share on the family or the deceased. Eulogies are not personal soap boxes. Eulogies are not star events. Eulogies are not throw rocks or eviscerating folk proclamations masquerading as deep prophetic pronouncements.”