Commentary

Miss Aretha Franklin: A Five-Star Queen of Soul

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By Rev. Amos Brown

I have known the Rev. Jasper Williams for a long time and respect him as an individual. I wonder, however, if he understood the meaning of “eulogy” in the wake of the unfortunate sermon he delivered at Miss Aretha Franklin’s funeral in Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple last week.

 

I attended the funeral for eight hours, and I joined Miss Franklin’s family in condemning Rev. Williams’ decision to use a critical moment in history to espouse personal political views rather than to righteously honor The Queen of Soul’s life and legacy.

 

In his supposed eulogy, the Rev. Williams repeated the false narrative that black women are incapable of raising boys into men. He then echoed President Trump in suggesting black-on-black crime in cities like Chicago is the main issue – neglecting to address systemic injustices inflicted on African American communities.

 

The Rev. Williams doesn’t just need to study history. He needs to read, and re-reread, first the story of Jesus’ death on the cross. Apparently Joseph’s father was not at the cross when the Christian savior died on the cross. There were only women and John’s beloved disciple whom Jesus said, “Son behold thy mother; mother behold my Son.” From that moment on John became a surrogate to Jesus family, and that family produced James, who became the leader of church at Jerusalem.  Moreover, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Jesse Lewis Jackson and yours truly, did not have a constant father image present. But these iconic men still achieved.

 

In the next instance William Golding’s Lord of the Flies – a book about young civilized British schoolchildren who survive a plane crash on an uninhabited island. The children gradually devolve into a devastatingly low level of humanity as they attempt to form a new society on the island, and that scenario does much to explain what is going on in the more violent areas of Chicago. After the first and second world wars, resources were scarce and African Americans migrated in droves to cities like Chicago for work, particularly in the defense industry during WWII. After the second war ended and factories closed, families in African America communities were left jobless in areas that lacked quality education, adequate housing, and so forth. Like the British schoolboys, they were left stranded on an island without human necessities and a culture of violence emerged.

 

Last Friday in her eulogy Miss Aretha Franklin should have been recognized, not only for her voice, but for her not giving up on our marginalized communities.

 

If I had delivered the eulogy, I would have called her a Five-Star Queen of Soul, and then explained why. Her eulogy would have told her story, about how her passion for education along with her father, the late Rev. C.L. Franklin, who also had a “million dollar voice.” Aretha was a high school dropout, but she was a strong supporter of education, regularly assisting organizations like the United Negro College Fund. So she was an enlightened woman who had respect for education. That’s the first star in the “Five –Star Queen of Soul.” Queen of Soul “Yes, That’s the compelling music of her soul was Thought the

 

She was also an encourager. She lived to encourage others, and to help others. From the time she sang at her father’s church, she also alongside her father fed people in need. She never stopped helping people at the church through donations and other support, becoming an inspiration to the community. NBA legend Isaiah Thomas said he got to know Aretha Franklin when he was a bad boy in the league.

 

“I got here to Detroit, Aretha sat me down, her and Mayor Coleman Young, and they kept asking me what are you going to do? What are you going to say about Detroit?” Thomas said in his more accurate form of eulogy to the Queen. “And they taught me about Detroit. And they gave me the courage to speak about race, and class and gender while I was a champion.”

 

Till the very end, whether it was the Flint water crisis or students in need, Aretha was there to support. Perhaps these good deeds to some degree de-emphasize the majesty of her musical craft.

 

A third star for this five-star Queen of Souls is not just in the distinction in her voice and her command over it, but how eclectic she was in her artistry and the music she performed. She influenced Elvis Presley in terms of his musical style. She knew how to sing Ave Maria. And the person behind that universal voice spoke universal truths, seeing America not as a melting pot of boiling stew, but more as a health salad bowl of people and ideas. That’s what she was about in her music. That’s what she brought. She not only included all musical styles but also races, creeds, religions. She was a world citizen.

 

Fourth Star: She was an incredible soul sister. Amid avid support for marginalized populations, she tried to prop up fellow African Americans, provide them with hope. She raised nearly a quarter million dollars to get Angela Davis, falsely accused of being a communist, out of jail. Decades after her father helped plan the March on Washington of 1963, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered portions of his I have a Dream speech, Franklin was in Washington to perform “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the inauguration of the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama.

 

Fifth star: She was an endurer. In spite of challenges, Aretha Franklin served others to the very end. Months before pancreatic cancer ravaged her body, she went to New York for Elton John’s fundraiser to support the cause for fighting AIDs.  To the bitter end, she was serving, she was enduring. And that’s just who she was.

 

Though the storms keep on raging in my life

 And sometimes it's hard to tell my night from day

 Still that hope that lies within is reassured

 As I keep my eyes upon the distant shore;

 I know He'll lead me safely to that

 Blessed place He has prepared

 

 But if the storms don't cease

 And if the wind keeps on blowing, (in my life)

 My soul has been anchored in the Lord

 

 And it keeps me steadfast and unmovable

 Despite the tide

 But if the storms don't cease

 But in case the wind keeps on blowing, (in my life)

 My soul has been anchored in the Lord

 My soul has been anchored in the Lord

 

 My soul's been anchored

 My soul's been anchored

 My soul's been anchored

 

Amos C. Brown is an African American pastor and civil rights activist. He is the president of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP, and has been the pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco since 1976.

Call To Acton: Lawmakers Need To Hear From Community On Police Shootings

By Assemblymember Shirley Weber and Reverend Ben McBride

 

Fundamental to our faith is the holiness of every individual life. Fundamental to our system of laws is that there is no right more important than the right to live. Yet, life has become cheap in communities of color.

 

Police brutality continues to plague black and brown communities and interactions that would otherwise be mundane and uneventful for other Californians often end in death of a person of color.

 

Far too many mothers have been left grieving the loss of a child, children left fatherless, and communities left heartbroken. Our people are hurting and left asking why?

In response to this question, we get attempts at character assassination and justifications based on officer’s fear, fear of an unarmed  brown or black child with a toy, fear of a scared black or brown teen fleeing,fear of unarmed black or brown man being a black or brown man.

And yet we watch police safely end standoffs with white suspects, taking them into custody without loss of life. It seems over and over again the police react quickly with fear and violence in black and brown communities, and with care and caution in white communities.

We know the police can do better.

 

AB 931 offers a tangible solution. Our law governing when police can use deadly force was written in 1872, before women had the right to vote and when segregation was still legal.

 

Under the law, police can use deadly force even when they have other options and even if their own gross negligence created the threat that resulted in them having to use deadly force. But we can all agree that police should never kill if they have other options. Life is far too precious to be ended without seeking alternatives.

It is time to change the law to match our values. AB 931 will update California’s deadly use of force law to prevent unnecessary killings. The bill’s goal is simple: to save lives.

 

Passing it is commonsense. Research has shown that officers at agencies with stricter use of force policies kill fewer people and are less likely to be killed or seriously injured themselves. Seattle, for example,saw a decrease in use of force incidents after the Seattle Police Department adopted a policy similar to that in AB 931.

 

We have a deadly problem with policing, but we also have an opportunity to address this problem.

All of us are beloved children of God. As such, we have a moral obligation to do everything in our power not only to revere, but also to preserve and protect human life. To that end, we must move forward – together – to adopt public policy solutions that will help us get there.

AB 931 is one of many steps we must take to do so. Let us be clear: nothing will bring back people killed by police officers. But we the people have the power to usher meaningful change.

 

Faith requires works and conviction requires action. You are critical to the success of this change. We need all Californians of faith and all who believe in racial justice to call their representatives and ask for a “yes” vote on AB 931. This line will connect you directly with your Senator’s office 1-855-622-9310.

This shouldn’t be a difficult ask for lawmakers. The choice is simple: their votes can save lives.

Assemblymember Shirley Weber is the author of AB 931 and vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus.  She represents San Diego. Rev. Ben McBride is the Co Director of PICO California, the Co-Chair of the Racial and Identity Profiling Board and founder of the Trust through Reform Project.

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