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Reverend Jasper Williams Faces the Music After Aretha Franklin Eulogy

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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.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. marcus davis

    September 8, 2018 at 2:53 am

    I read about this .Though i do agree about what he said about the Black community ,the funneral was definetly not the time or the place to say it.He should have saved his speech for one of his sermons where it would have been more appropiate.

  2. Shawn J.

    September 6, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    SMH (again)

  3. IfaEl Akbar

    September 6, 2018 at 3:45 am

    As a certified Funeral and Life-cycle Celebrant this is what I learned to never do. Ironically, getting gigs with Black families is the most difficult because they are afraid not to have a preacher talking about salvation instead of the deceased. I interview the family members and get stories and weave them into something meaningful. I will use this eulogy for my students who are wanti g to officiate Black family funerals so they know what they are up against. Many older Black Americans liked what he said and those are the ones who will not hire a Funeral Celebrant. “Last Writes of Passage – Celebrations.”

    • The Reel Network

      September 6, 2018 at 8:01 pm

      @IfaEl Akbar Your post is so wonderful. Even though it sounds like you understand how to give a proper farewell that respects the deceased and the living, you still watched the service many condemned with an attitude of ‘what can I learn from this?’ That is commendable and admirable. Your students will be the benefactors of your humility and wisdom. Thanks for sharing your comments.

  4. Chas

    September 6, 2018 at 12:55 am

    Rev Jasper Williams was awful and disrespectful to The Queen and her family! Instead of speaking on Ms Franklin and words of comfort to the family he had his own stupid agenda in mind. I was there and was one that said “sit down” several times and was very close to saying more. The service was still grand even though he made an “ass” of himself. I stand behind the Franklin family statement.

    • The Reel Network

      September 6, 2018 at 8:08 pm

      @Chas Hi Chas…the eulogy is striking the same sour note with you that it has with so many others who agree that this wasn’t the way to memorialize one of the greatest singers this country has ever known. Wow, appreciate you sharing your insight even more since you were actually there! I’m sure the family appreciates you standing with them as do many of the Queen of Soul’s fans. Thanks for sharing your comments with us Chas

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