IBLC statement and reflection on the passing of Aretha Franklin
INDIANAPOLIS – Below is a statement from the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus concerning the death of Aretha Franklin, who was not only a legendary singer/songwriter, but also a champion for Civil Rights:
“The passing of Aretha Franklin is a loss to the country. Yes, Aretha was the Queen of Soul, but she was so much more. She was a Champion for Equality, Civil Rights, and the Conscience of a Nation struggling to find its soul. As President Barack Obama wrote upon hearing of her death, ‘Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade – our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.’
“Aretha’s commitment to Civil Rights is one she inherited from her father. The Rev. Clarence L. Franklin organized the 1963 Detroit Walk to Freedom, which was the largest Civil Rights march until Rev. Franklin’s close friend, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., along with 250,000 people, made history with the March on Washington, where Dr. King gave his powerful ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Dr. King visited the Franklin home any time he was in Detroit and obviously made a lasting impression upon Aretha.
“As a youth, Aretha also learned from the great Mahalia Jackson, the ‘Queen of Gospel,’ who supported Civil Rights from the earliest days of the movement. Jackson’s music and friendship was Dr. King’s source for personal peace and consolation.
“In this environment of strength, passion and courage to fight for the rights of African Americans and anyone who is oppressed, Aretha found her voice.
“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter, Dr. Bernice King, called Aretha Franklin a ‘shining example’ of how to use the arts as a catalyst to support social change. She went on to say about Aretha, ‘As a daughter of the movement, she (Aretha) not only used her voice to entertain, but to uplift and inspire generations through songs that have become anthems.’
“‘Respect’ is one of those anthems. Aretha wrote in her memoir Aretha: From These Roots, ‘It (reflected) the need of a nation, the need of the average man and woman in the street, the businessman, the mother, the fireman, the teacher – everyone wanted respect. It was also one of the battle cries of the civil rights movement. The song took on monumental significance.’
“There were countless times that Aretha would donate proceeds of a performance to Civil Rights causes in order to keep the movement and Dr. King’s Dream alive. She would open her home to activists as she opened her heart to all people in need, especially those of color, in need of fair housing, in need of food to end hunger, in need of quality education, in need of economic opportunities, and in need of basic human rights. In a word, she fought for the need for ‘Respect’ for those who suffer oppression and the absurd hatred of others.
“Aretha Franklin lived what she sang and would challenge the thousands gathered at her concerts to register to vote and to always stand up for decency. More than anything, Aretha Franklin is an inspiration to this and all future generations of Americans and people throughout the world.
“Aretha, we will cry ‘96 Teardrops’ going on a million, because you made us ‘Think’ about the larger purpose of life, the one for which God set us upon earth, to tirelessly work to achieve ‘Respect’ for all people. Now, God has called you home to join his heavenly choir, which is even more heavenly with your magnificent voice.
“Aretha, we miss you. You are the ‘Queen of Soul’ and the ‘Queen of our Hearts.’”