(Reuters) – The funeral for Aretha Franklin in Detroit on Friday also briefly became an impromptu forum on the Black Lives Matter movement and other issues critical to the African American community.
The Queen of Soul was remembered during a nearly eight-hour service that featured tributes from former U.S. President Bill Clinton and civil rights leaders, as well as often emotional performances by entertainers Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson and Gladys Knight.
The Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., pastor at Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta, delivered the eulogy for Franklin and used his time at the podium to raise social issues he said were critical to the black community.
“Do black lives matter? Let me answer like this. No. Black lives do not matter, black lives will not matter, black lives ought not matter, 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 said.
Singer Stevie Wonder appeared to respond in part to Williams when he delivered remarks at the end of the service, following his own musical tribute to Franklin.
“We can talk about all the things that are wrong and there are many but the only thing that can deliver us is love. So what needs to happen today not only in this nation but throughout the world is that we need to make love great again,” Wonder said.
“Because black lives do matter, because all lives do matter and if we love God then we know truly that it is our love that will make all things matter, when we make love great again. That is what Aretha has said throughout her life. Throughout the pain, she gave us the joy and said ‘Let’s make love great again’,” Wonder said.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Kim Coghill