The ceremony will be unapologetically black, said Detroit native
and Georgetown University sociologist Michael Eric Dyson,
who spoke at the service.
``She was our voice for half a century,'' Dyson said. ``She gave
expression to our desires”--spiritual, political and sexual.
``She was a full-service queen. She was the people's diva.''
Franklin, who was 76, died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer in
Detroit, a city where she stayed long after many others had
The funeral, her final role, offered a testament not only to her
life and musical legacy, but to the triumph of black culture.
``Everybody don't do funerals like we do in the black church,''
said gospel artist Marvin Sapp, who was one of the
performers. ``We don't even call them funerals. We call them `homegoing
services,' and we know how to send people home.''
The remembrances began Tuesday under the roof of The Charles
H. Wright Museum of African American History, which long
housed the world's largest permanent exhibit of African-American
culture. Franklin lay in repose at the museum for two days as
thousands of fans from all walks of life came to say goodbye.
She was brought to and from the museum in the same white 1940
Cadillac LaSalle hearse that carried her father, legendary
minister C.L. Franklin, and civil rights icon Rosa Parks to
their final resting places.
The black church and gospel music, both of which loomed large
throughout Franklin's life, have been heavily represented in the
farewells. Her funeral will be held at Greater Grace Temple, one
of Detroit's largest and most famous churches.
``She would have had it no other way,'' said Bobby Jones,
a pillar of the gospel community who currently hosts a radio
show and was the longtime host of the popular ``Bobby Jones
Gospel'' on Black Entertainment Television.
The services will have a jazz section including mainstream and
gospel—appropriate because of her contribution to help
popularize the genre, Jones said.
``Gospel was written when black people were striving,'' said
Jones, who will lead a gospel section that includes genre
powerhouses The Clark Sisters, Pastor Shirley Caesar, and
``They needed inspiration, joy and peace,'' Jones explained.
``Elitists thought it was just for the downtrodden. Aretha
and Mahalia Jackson and others who were able to break
through to other type of audiences helped to erase that.''
Franklin's faith was steeped in a proud tradition in the black
community embodied by her father, considered one of America's
great preachers. He preached at New Bethel Baptist Church, a
cornerstone of the black church and the Detroit headquarters of
the civil rights movement, from 1946 to 1979.
``He established a particular style of preaching that is
connected to the local urban black church that is still being
used today,'' Sapp said. ``Her rearing in the church and having
a father like her father is really the reason why she has had
such a strong faith and why she stayed so close to church.''
Franklin will be eulogized by the Rev. Jasper Williams,
who also eulogized her father. Williams is known for his
``whooping'' preaching style—similar to C.L. Franklin's—that
features a fiery delivery and combines scripture with social
The church helped keep Franklin tethered to Detroit. She held
annual revivals at New Bethel. Sapp said fans will see the
impact of the black church on her life and career at Friday's
``We really celebrate because we really recognize that those we
call the `dearly departed,' they wouldn't want for us to cry and
be sad and sorrowful. They would want us to celebrate their
lives because they transitioned from this life to a better
Sapp wouldn't reveal what he will perform Friday, but said that
every song was picked by Franklin.
Franklin's faith was wrapped up in the fight for civil rights,
and she performed gospel and her other hit records to energize
blacks living in segregation, and to raise money for the cause.
Her commitment to social justice was also born in the black
church. Franklin's father was a major civil rights figure in the
city and a supporter of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, the
largest unit in the organization.
``That support was done in ways in which she didn't seek credit.
She just wanted to get the job done,'' said NAACP President
Derrick Johnson, a Detroit native who attended Friday's
funeral. ``African-Americans feel disrespected now. When you
think about her song `Respect,' it's as much of an anthem
today as it was when she made it.''
But it is Franklin—and what she represented for so long, for so
many—who will be the balm to mourners. Her message of respect
is reborn in the current political and social climate, Dyson
``Even when we have ... the vicious resurgence of bigotry in
this country, Aretha Franklin stood and said, `You will respect
me as a human being, as a black person, as a woman, and as a
member of this American community,''' Dyson said. ``We had
access to her because she loved blackness without hesitation or
Associated Press Writer Kristin M. Hall contributed to this
report. Ms. Whack
is The Associated Press' national writer on race and ethnicity.
Follow her work on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/emarvelous .
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