Aretha Franklin's family said the controversial eulogy delivered by an Atlanta pastor at the late singer's funeral, criticizing Black Lives Matter and single mothers, was "offensive and distasteful."
Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., who leads the Salem Bible Church in Atlanta, gave a fiery sermon at the Queen of Soul's Detroit funeral Friday, lamenting how black America is losing its "soul" and is hindered by a large percentage of single black women leading households and raising children alone.
"Rev. Jasper Williams spent more than 50 minutes speaking and at no time did he properly eulogize her," Vaughn Franklin, the singer's nephew, said Monday in a statement to BuzzFeed News on behalf of his family. "We found the comments to be offensive and distasteful."
Franklin said that his aunt had never asked for Williams to deliver her funeral address, "because dying is a topic that she never discussed with anyone." The family asked the pastor to perform the eulogy because he had memorialized other family members, including Aretha Franklin's father, minister and civil rights activist C.L. Franklin.
"However, there were several people that my aunt admired that would have been outstanding individuals to deliver her eulogy," Vaughn Franklin noted, listing names such as Rev. Al Sharpton.
During the elaborate ceremony honoring the 76-year-old's life, Williams described children being raised without a father as "abortion after birth."
"Seventy percent of our households are led by our precious, proud, fine black women," he bellowed. "But as proud, beautiful, and fine as our black women are, one thing a black woman cannot do — a black woman cannot raise a black boy to be a man."
Franklin, who died last month from pancreatic cancer, raised four boys on her own, and many criticized the pastor for degrading her hard work as a single mother.
In another controversial moment, Williams told mourners, "black lives do not matter...must not matter" until black people start respecting "black lives and stop killing ourselves."
"Black lives can never matter," he shouted, sparking a rebuke from Stevie Wonder, who yelled back, "Black lives matter."
The contentious eulogy "caught the entire family off guard," Vaughn Franklin said.
Williams, however, has steadfastly defended his address and said that while he respects and understands the family's position and is "sorry they feel that way," he believes that his comments have been misunderstood and taken out of context.
"I was trying to show that the movement now is moving and should move in a different direction," he told the Associated Press. "... What we need to do is create respect among ourselves. Aretha is the person with that song 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T' that is laid out for us and what we need to be as a race within ourselves. We need to show each other that. We need to show each other respect. That was the reason why I did it."
The pastor told the AP that he believes his critics did not understand the point he was making about the state of "black America" and the pressing need to "step up and turn our race around."
"I'm sure much of the negativity is due to the fact that they don't understand what I'm talking about," he said. "Anybody who thinks black America is all right as we are now is crazy. We're not all right. It's a lot of change that needs to occur. This change must come from within us. Nobody can give us things to eliminate where we are. We have to change from within ourselves."
Making such a pointed address at the memorial of one of the world's most distinguished singers, though, was inappropriate, her family contended.
"We feel that Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. used this platform to push his negative agenda, which as a family, we do not agree with," Vaughn Franklin said. "It has been very, very distasteful, which is unfortunate because everyone else who participated in the ceremony was very respectful."