You All Tried It: A Review of Aretha Franklin’s Homegoing Service

On August 16th, 2018, the world lost one of its strongest pioneers. A woman who spent six decades defining odds against race, gender, age, body image, and music genres in an industry that’s ever-changing and can be vapid and youth-driven. Aretha Franklin was and will always be one of the vocal standards for any aspiring singer. She was crown the “Queen of Soul” because she every song she wrote, recorded, and performed, you felt her spirit and her emotion in every note. She knew how to convey the message and emotion every woman felt with songs like “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”, “A Rose is Still a Rose”, and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. While her voice was sweet and loving, her voice was also a powerhouse and took control of any room she was in. With songs like “Think” and “Respect”, Aretha encouraged women in her generation and the generations of women who came after her to stand up for themselves, fight for their rights, and confront systematic misogyny and racism head first, especially at a time when the music industry was male-dominated.

When news broke of Franklin’s passing, an outpouring of love and respect came from celebrities, fans, media outlets, and of course, friends and family. A two-day public viewing at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan, Aretha’s hometown. The following day, on August 31st, a star-studded Homegoing Service (which was streamed by the major news outlet and was held at Greater Grace Temple, also in Franklin’s hometown of Detroit. August 31st, was also the day we got a full view of why many millennials, especially black millennials and black youth in general, have left the church. 

As we watched the Homegoing of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul and pioneering singer, songwriter, and civil rights supporter, the blatant misogyny, sexism, and ridiculing of the black community took away from the attention of the fabulous musical stylings of Chaka Khan, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder, and others who paid tribute to the Queen of Soul. Let’s break this down for the people who don’t understand….or want to be delusional. 

Let’s start off with the attendees who were invited.

 (from left to right) Minister Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, President Bill Clinton. (Source: HollywoodReporter.com)

(from left to right) Minister Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, President Bill Clinton. (Source: HollywoodReporter.com)

Granted some of the attendees had close relationships with Franklin, but some of the attendees, including the men who sat at the prime seats on stage, have disrespected black women, belittled the black community, systematically kept black people at the bottom of the totem pole in this country, and clearly didn’t think black bodies weren’t worth saving. Everything Aretha fought and stood for, some of the attendees were against. They didn’t deserve to be the Queen one last time. 

Then this Ariana Grande incident happened. 

 This photo has been circulating on social media of pop diva Ariana Grande (left) looking stunned as Bishop Ellis grabbed her. (Source: Facebook)

This photo has been circulating on social media of pop diva Ariana Grande (left) looking stunned as Bishop Ellis grabbed her. (Source: Facebook)

First off, the Bible bumper, Pick Me’s, and misogynist on social media already was shaming the Pop Diva for her outfit…but I thought in church you “come as you are”. Then when Bishop Charles H. Ellis III groped Grande around her chest area, and proceed to joke saying when he saw her name, he thought it was a new item at Taco Bell…(for the record “grande” is used in Spanish, French, and Italian, but you automatically associated it with a Mexican fast food chain), social media went off, and the conversation continued when social media users tried to use Ariana Grande’s dress as a mean to victim blame. Since then, Bishop Ellis has apologized, but is still receiving backlash after he stated in his apologize he might of “crossed the border”. 

Then you had Rick Snyder in the building…

 Rick Snyder speaking at Aretha's funeral. (Source: Daily Herald)

Rick Snyder speaking at Aretha's funeral. (Source: Daily Herald)

For those of you who don’t know, Rick Snyder is the man responsible for the Flint Water Crisis and was eloquently called out by Judge Greg Mathis. Why? I really would like to know why would you have someone who purposely made the people from Aretha’s hometown and the people Aretha sang for, at her funeral? Other than political reasons. 

Then you had Bill Clinton playing Aretha’s music on Spotify.

 Clinton putting the microphone up to his phone to play Aretha's music. (Source: Rolling Stone)

Clinton putting the microphone up to his phone to play Aretha's music. (Source: Rolling Stone)

I get the message he was trying to make, telling the story of how much music has changed, but Bill, we are at the funeral of a Queen…this is not a cookout.

Then we have the holy grail of coonery, brought to you by Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. of Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta. 

 Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. caused outrage on social media after his eulogy. (Source: Boston Herald)

Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. caused outrage on social media after his eulogy. (Source: Boston Herald)

In a 50 minute unnecessary speech, Rev. Williams claim “black America has lost it, soul”, discrediting the Black Lives Matter movement because they don’t focus on “black-on-black” crime (which shows his age, because he didn’t bring up the systematic oppression that causes “black-on-black” crime), blamed the civil rights movement for destroying the black economy. Oh no there’s more!

This man had the audacity to question black men asking, “where is your soul? As I look in your house there are no fathers in the home no more”, then said to black women “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 black man”. Afterward, he described children being raised without a “provider” father and a mother as the “nurturer”.

How do you have the energy in your body to say that at the funeral of a woman…who was a SINGLE BLACK MOTHER who suffered domestic abuse?! Can you imagine how much of a slap in the face that was for numerous people in the audience and to the people watching at home?

Like everyone who was watching the funeral, I was over it. I tried to watch more, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t deal with the fact that this is the way we are sending off one of the greatest vocalists who ever lived. This is how we said goodbye to a woman who used her voice and her platform to fight against racism, sexism, as well as speak for those who couldn’t always speak for themselves. People who didn’t care about black people, nor did they care about women or children, were given the most time on stage to honor the Queen. 

Aretha Franklin deserved better simply because she was the type of artist that made everything better whenever she was around. I believe it would have been more befitting if either the family or artists and politicians such as Mary J. Blige, Fantasia, Maxine Waters, Michelle Obama, or other strong black women. To Aretha, I know you were looking down at us throwing all the shade with Prince and Whitney. To Aretha’s family, I hope despite all the ratchet activity, you were able to enjoy the Homegoing if your beloved and celebrated family member. 

More importantly, I hope everyone that was watching, including the Bible bumpers, take a real hard look amongst yourself, your church, and that Homegoing service. If this service wasn’t a prime example as to why young people (especially black millennials) have left the church (and religion in general), I don’t know what is. If you watched the service, read the comments on social media, and still don’t see what the problem was, maybe you’re the problem.