by G. Brown
Legendary singer Aretha Franklin was given an 8-hour marathon of a funeral last week as family and fans said farewell to shepherd the iconic singer on her eternal rest in peace. But here on earth, there is still hell to pay for the man who delivered a fire and brimstone eulogy that many say crossed the line.
Reverend Jasper Williams spoke for less than an hour, but nearly a week later his words are still reverberating in the worst way possible. Instead of words normally conveyed at funerals to help people heal, critics say Williams primarily spoke hatred. In his eulogy, Williams said, “Black lives should not matter. Black lives must not matter. Until Black people start respecting Black lives and stop killing ourselves, Black lives can never matter…”
Williams even insulted Franklin’s four sons when he said that a Black woman cannot raise a Black man. At one point, whispers could reportedly be heard from the pews of people begging for the eulogy to talk about Aretha instead of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin and Black Lives Matter.
Franklin’s family reporting called the eulogy “distasteful” and her nephew said in a statement, “We found the comments to be offensive… He spoke for 50 minutes and at no time did he properly eulogize her. We feel that Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. used this platform to push his negative agenda, which as a family, we do not agree with.”
Others have stepped forward to criticize Williams including fellow clergy, Christians and celebrities. News site Rollingout.com says Williams may have done more to harm to Black people than to help them. In its article, Rolling Out says “Williams’ words supported the false narrative of the Alt-Right movement regarding the state of Black life in America. His statements regarding Black Lives Matter were then used as sound clips by White Conservative media organizations to further diminish this powerful social justice movement that arose after the killing of unarmed Black people.”
In the face of a rising tide of resentment, Williams reportedly stands by his eulogy saying parts of his message have been taken out of context.
Williams is a close friend of the Franklin family and was supposedly the best friend of Aretha’s father. He currently serves as pastor emeritus of Atlanta’s Salem Baptist Church. The Detroit Free Press quoted him responding to critics by saying, “It could be that they didn’t understand what I was saying.”
It could also be that with former Presidents and big named celebrities like Stevie Wonder sitting mere feet to his right and left, Williams got caught in the bright lights and tried to make the sermon memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Too many preachers mistakenly use the pulpit as a political platform or weaponize it to inflict pain, instead of remembering the altar is a sacred place for souls to heal, be comforted and made whole again.