Just A Little Respect, America, Just A Little Respect
The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin passed away three years ago on 8/16/2018, and I can only think about the gift God gave the world when she was born. This weekend the movie RESPECT comes to the movie theatres across with Jennifer Hudson playing the role of Aretha Franklin. The shoes of Aretha Franklin are simply too large for Ms. Hudson to fill but still, I'm happy to see Aretha Franklin's life story come to the big screen. While I personally won't venture out to see the movie I do hope that it captures the essence of this powerful black woman and doesn't focus solely on the negative to build audience interest.
Aretha Franklin was to me the symbolic treasure of the later days of the Black Civil Rights Movement as well as the symbolic treasure of the early days of the Black Power Movement. I cannot fathom where our black communities would have been having not Aretha Franklin graced us with God-given talents. Aretha Franklin was the daughter of a great missionary of God, C.L. Franklin, who stood up to the powers of racism never once failing to back down. He demanded that the downtown forces of white institutional racism respect the manhood and womanhood of those blacks in his flock. Of course, Reverend Franklin's flock included the blacks residing in the entire city of Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the entire nation.
It's no wonder that the revelation he and his wife Barbara produced, Aretha, became a powerful voice in the call for justice during the civil rights movement. No, Aretha wasn't tasked to make speeches demanding justice. That was not the talent God had given her to assist a nation of black people to rise up against the forces of bigotry and hatred. The talent that God gave her was an angelic powerful voice that rose above the elements of white hatred, rose above the oppressive living conditions faced by our ancestors, rose above the lost dreams and hopes of so many black people in America. It was a voice that reached across the racial aisles and touched those white people willing to have just a little understanding of a nation of black people's plight.
Aretha Franklin took a song that was written and first sung by Otis Redding, RESPECT, and created a genuine masterpiece. The song was all about a black people's movement upward in America. Show me a little respect was personalized in the song about a relationship between a man and woman but in reality, the connection was Black America telling White America for just some respect. Aretha always sang the lyrics of her songs with incredible emotional passion, an element of passion that moved her audience. It didn't matter if that audience was in the auditorium listening live or in their living rooms listening to her records, or on the streets listening to her music on the radio stations.
When the SCLC was struggling for funds, Dr. Martin Luther King would put a call too Aretha for assistance. King asked and Aretha always answered with an affirmative "YES" and she would be on a stage somewhere promoting the cause of civil rights. Just like Mahalia Jackson's voice was distinctive and immediately recognizable. So was the voice of Aretha Franklin and both of these bold black sisters were embedded in the fight for our peoples' rights to gain social and civil equality. Aretha Franklin never backed down to calls that her activism was threatening her earning power. Because inside Aretha Franklin was a desire to see her Black America rise up and be respected. I am sending my prayers today to Aretha Franklin knowing full well that whatever the results. The ultimate Queen of Soul has done well for the time she has been on the planet. I know that the hands that lead her over these troubling waters will provide comfort and grace today and forever. She is and will always be "the most natural of black womanhood".