Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., the pastor at Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta, used his time on the podium to discuss social issues he said were critical to the black community.
However, in a statement issued to Reuters, Franklin’s family accused him of using the platform to “push his negative agenda” which Franklin’s family “does not agree with”.
Williams was picked because of past eulogies he had delivered for other members of the Franklin family. At Aretha Franklin’s funeral he claimed single mothers alone could not raise black boys to become men, and that black lives would not matter “until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves.” He called households without a father figure “abortion after birth” and appeared to suggest black women were incapable of raising sons alone.
Many of Franklin’s fans had a strong reaction to the speech, which they interpreted as a criticism of the artist herself, who was a single mother to four children.
“We found the comments to be offensive and distasteful,” the family said. “Rev. Jasper Williams spent more than 50 minutes speaking and at no time did he properly eulogize her.”
The Queen of Soul was given a heartfelt and uplifting farewell on Friday 31 August during an eight-hour service which featured a tribute from former U.S. President Bill Clinton, along with performances by artists including Ariana Grande, Stevie Wonder, and Chaka Khan.
Williams defended his comments at a news conference on 3 September, saying “respect for each other is the key to us changing the road we are on as a race”. In a statement issued the following day he added that he respected the family’s opinion and was sorry they felt that way.