Brow Beat

Aretha Franklin’s Family Calls Pastor’s Eulogy “Offensive and Distasteful”

Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. stands on a pulpit with the engraving ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM.
Rev. Jasper Williams Jr.
Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. has taken flak for comments he made at Aretha Franklin’s funeral on Friday, and now his critics include Franklin’s own family. Williams was supposed to be eulogizing Franklin after her death of pancreatic cancer, but the pastor regularly went off-topic during his speech, which was almost an hour long. His remarks about black-on-black crime and black parenting in particular drew ire, especially a comment that some perceived as a dig at the deceased.

“70 percent of our households are led by our precious, proud, fine black women,” he said during the eulogy. “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.” Franklin was a single mother herself, and had four sons.

In a statement provided to the Detroit Free Press, Franklin’s nephew, Vaughn Franklin, said he spoke on behalf of the late singer’s family in calling the pastor’s comments “offensive and distasteful,” and explained why Williams was selected to deliver Franklin’s eulogy in the first place:

Rev. Jasper Williams spent more than 50 minutes speaking and at no time did he properly eulogize her.

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.

In the same speech, Williams said that “black lives must not matter until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves,” which received audible pushback from funeral guests in the room in addition to stirring up a social media furor. Williams told the Associated Press that he stands by his comments, even after Franklin’s family released its statement. “I understand it,” he said. “I regret it. But I’m sorry they feel that way.”