Atlanta pastor stands firm after Aretha Franklin's funeral criticism

Image 1 of 2

The pastor from Atlanta who preached the eulogy at the funeral of Aretha Franklin has come under a cloud of controversy, after his sermon touched on topics ranging from Black Lives Matter, crime in the black community and single-parent households. 

"Black America has lost its soul," Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. of Salem Bible Church preached at the funeral of the Queen of Soul. 

His statements from the sermon have sparked debate among other civil rights leaders and black activists, and even among users on many social media sites. 

"When the police kills one of us, we’re ready to protest. march, destroy innocent property. We’re ready to loot, steal whatever we want. But when we kill 100 of us, nobody says anything," Williams said.  "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.”

"Seventy percent of our households are led by our precious, proud, fine black women.  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," he said.  

Sunday afternoon, Williams spoke at a press conference at Salem Bible Church, doubling down on his statements, and said the public may have misinterpreted his comments due to the shortening of his sermon for time constraints. He was accompanied by former Atlanta Police Chief Eldrin Bell and Rev. Gerald Durley, the former president of Providence Baptist Church.  

"I meant nobody no harm, and yet I meant the truth," he said, stating that his message has been well-received by other religious leaders and community activists. 

Rev. Gerald Durley praised Williams' message. 

"My colleagues throughout this city have already said thank you so much to Rev. Williams," he said. 

Gerald Griggs, attorney and vice president for the NAACP Georgia State Conference, said he was concerned by the "tone" of the sermon.   

"I think he reinforced some dangerous stereotypes," Griggs said. "Black lives should always matter. Seventy percent of black men will never see the inside of a court room or a jail cell ... Black on black crime is a misnomer – we account for 25 percent of crime nationally." 

"I'm not going to put down African-American women who have been the backbone of our communities," Griggs said, calling for a change in the rhetoric towards concerns and solutions in the black community. 

Teresa Fry Brown, professor of preaching at Emory University Candler School of Theology, stated on Facebook page a criticism of the funeral service and the tone addressed towards women, without specifically naming speakers. 

"When will we stop the constant utilization and understanding of black women as singers, dancers, comforters, cooks, cleaners and wombs on one hand and the scapegoating, castigating, and demonizing of black women as the ignorant, hapless, dangerous, useless, conniving sole agents of the demise destruction and death of all Black men on the other?" the post read.   

Sabrina Kirkland, the founder of children's advocacy group My Name is Me, said she understands Williams' comments in a reference of the need for black men to mentor youth. 

"It takes a man to train a boy how to become a man," Kirkland, a single mother who said the father of her son passed away, said. 

"I had to surround him with positive male influences that would teach him," she said. "I needed him to know what being a man was all about."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.