Pastor defends Franklin sermon after backlash

Associated Press


A fiery, old-school pastor who is under fire for saying black America is losing “its soul” at Aretha Franklin’s funeral stands firm by his words with the hopes critics can understand his perspective.

The Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. told The Associated Press in a phone interview Sunday he felt his sermon was appropriate at Franklin’s funeral Friday in Detroit. He felt his timing was right, especially after other speakers spoke on the civil-rights movement and President Donald Trump.

“I was trying to show that the movement now is moving, and should move, in a different direction,” he said. “... 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.”

Williams, who is the pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta, said his words about black women being incapable of raising sons alone and his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement were taken out of context.

Williams described as “abortion after birth” the idea of children being raised without a “provider” father and a mother as the “nurturer.” The pastor said he was not trying to take a shot at Franklin, who was a single mother of four boys.

Some called Williams’ eulogy a “disaster” as his speech caused an uproar on social media and in the funeral crowd, including Stevie Wonder, who yelled out “Black Lives Matter” after the pastor said “No, black lives do not matter” during his sermon.

“I think Stevie Wonder did not understand what I said,” Williams said. “I said blacks do not matter, because black lives cannot matter, will not matter, should not matter, must not matter until black people begin to respect their own lives. Then, and only then, will black lives matter. That’s what I said, and again, and again, and again. We need to have respect for each other. Once we start doing that, then we can begin to change.”

Williams was blasted on social media for misogyny, bigotry and the perpetuation of false science on race. He blamed integration and the civil-rights movement for ripping the heart out of black micro-economies that once relied on black-owned small businesses such as grocery stores, hotels and banks.

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