Aretha Franklin's family blast pastor over 'offensive and distasteful' eulogy

Aretha Franklin's family blast pastor over 'offensive and distasteful' eulogy

Aretha Franklin's family have blasted the pastor who gave the eulogy at her funeral, claiming his speech was "offensive and distasteful".

Reverend Jasper Williams Jr. has been accused of improperly eulogising the Queen of Soul in an address in which he criticised the Black Lives Matter movement and stated black women cannot raise black boys to be "men".

In his 50-minute speech at the Greater Grace Temple, Detroit, on 31 August, Williams told the audience: "Black lives must not matter until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves".

He continued to say: "There are not fathers in the home no more", adding that a black woman could not raise a black boy to be a man, a comment that was perceived by many as being disrespectful towards the late singer, who was a single mother of four boys. In addition, he stated that black America was losing "its soul" and described children raised without a father as "abortion after birth".

In response, one of the singer’s nephews Vaughn Franklin said in a statement on behalf of the family: "He spoke for 50 minutes and at no time did he properly eulogize her... We found the comments to be offensive and distasteful. We feel that Rev Jasper Williams Jr used this platform to push his negative agenda, which as a family, we do not agree with."

Franklin added that his aunt had not requested that Williams provide her eulogy "because dying is a topic that she never discussed with anyone". The family had selected Williams because of his previous ties with them; he had given the eulogy for Franklin’s father, Reverend CL Franklin and her siblings Erma and Cecil Franklin.

The eulogy received mixed responses in the temple, with members of the congregation were heard saying "Talk about Aretha" and giving one each confused looks and groans, while others gave him a standing ovation.

Onstage afterwards, singer Stevie Wonder appeared to directly address his comments about Black Lives Matter, saying: "We need to make love great again because black lives do matter, because all lives do matter."

Responding to the criticism of his eulogy at the weekend, Williams said he was "sorry they feel that way" and claimed that some of his comments had been misunderstood.

"I understand it. I regret it. But I'm sorry they feel that way... I'm sure much of the negativity is due to the fact that they don't understand what I'm talking about. Anybody who thinks black America is all right as we are now is crazy. We're not all right. It's a lot of change that needs to occur."

He continued: "This change must come from within us. It is ludicrous for the church not to be involved. The church is the only viable institution we have in the African-American community. We must step up and turn our race around."

Bill Clinton, Smokey Robinson, Ariana Grande, Al Sharpton and Faith Hill were among those to pay tribute to the singer, who died from pancreatic cancer age 76 on 16th August.