Aretha Franklin's Family Slams Pastor's Eulogy Criticizing Black Community; Pastor Responds

ev. Jasper Williams Jr. gives eulogy at Aretha Franklin's funeral at Greater Grace Temple on August 31, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan
ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

The family of the late Aretha Franklin says they found the eulogy delivered by Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. at the iconic performer's funeral Friday to be "very, very distasteful," but the "old-school" pastor is standing firm by his remarks.

In the 50-minute eulogy delivered at the late singer's star-packed funeral Friday, Williams declared that "black lives do not matter" so long as black people continue to kill themselves and criticized raising children in fatherless homes.

"Black lives must not matter until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves," said Williams. Part of the problem, he suggested, was that the large percentage of homes without fathers in the black community has resulted in young men without adequate upbringing. Raising children without "provider" fathers and "nurturer" mothers, he said, was "abortion after birth."

Franklin herself was a single mother of four boys, the Associated Press notes.

Speaking on behalf of the family, the late singer's nephew, Vaughn Franklin, told AP that Williams' eulogy "caught the entire family off guard."

"He spoke for 50 minutes and at no time did he properly eulogize her," said Vaughn Franklin.

The late singer had not selected Williams to speak, he said, since she did not lay out plans for a funeral. Williams was selected by the family because he had spoken at previous family memorials, including that of Aretha's father, minister and civil rights activist C.L. Franklin. Vaughn Franklin said that the family had not discussed the specifics of his eulogy with Williams in advance.

"It has been very, very distasteful," he said.

But while Williams said he is "sorry they feel that way" and that he "understand[s]" and "regret[s] it," he isn't backing down.

In a phone interview with AP Sunday, Williams defended his comments about Black Lives Matter and fatherless homes. "I was trying to show that the movement now is moving and should move in a different direction," he told AP.

"What we need to do is create respect among ourselves," he added. "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."

His comments about single black mothers, he suggested, were taken out of context and never intended as an insult to Franklin.

"Here's the root of what I've been talking about: In order to change America, we must change black America's culture," the Atlanta-based pastor said. "We must do it through parenting. In order for the parenting to go forth, it has to be done in the home. The home."

Williams also addressed Stevie Wonder yelling "Black Lives Matter!" in response to Williams' saying, "No, black lives don't matter."

"I think Stevie Wonder did not understand what I said," said the pastor. "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."

As for all the outrage about his comments, the pastor said, "I'm sure much of the negativity is due to the fact that they don't understand what I'm talking about. 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. It is ludicrous for the church not to be involved. The church is the only viable institution we have in the African-American community. We must step up and turn our race around."

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