Aretha Franklin’s memorial service on Friday was an incredible way to honor a woman who deserves even more. Also, the service is maybe the largest and most-viewed religious gathering in the Black tradition we may ever see televised in America.
Over the course of the eight-hour service, we got the good, bad and extremely ugly of the Black church. The latter came thanks to a 30-minute eulogy by Reverend Jasper Williams, senior pastor of Atlanta’s Salem Bible Church.
The eulogy was less a tribute to Aretha Franklin and more a promotion of the misogyny and respectability politics that have historically plagued so many black churches across the country.
In short, Williams’ speech was disgraceful.
It was all a disaster. Williams sounded less like a man tasked with leading 10,000 the 10,000 black people who go to his churches every Sunday, and more like a Trump speechwriter. The resulting outrage was swift and deserved, with many watching on Twitter sharing their outrage. Even Stevie Wonder himself took the stage to make sure we all knew that black lives do, in fact, matter.
Williams’ lecture was, unfortunately, to cap off a ceremony that had been filled with beauty and respect. Beyond that, his sermon – combined with Bishop Ellis’ groping of Ariana Grande hours early – was a reminder to so many people why they left the church in the first place. Because, sadly, Williams’ ideology isn’t an anomaly.