Local Leaders Respond to Aretha Franklin's Passing: "We have lost one of the great artists of our time"

Aretha Franklin, the “Queen Of Soul” and one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music, has died at her home in Detroit, according to The Associated Press. She was 76 years old.
Franklin had been battling a series of illnesses for some time, and earlier this year announced her retirement from the road.
Dr. Bernice King
“We have lost another legend from the civil rights era. From the time she was a teenager, Ms. Franklin has been singing freedom songs in support of my father and others in the struggle for civil rights. As a daughter of the movement, she not only used her voice to entertain but to uplift and inspire generations through songs that have become anthems such as “Respect” and “Bridge over Troubled Water.” After my father’s assassination, her relationship with my mother continued and grew stronger. She was one of the many artists that joined my mother in her unwavering efforts to establish the King Holiday. When my mother passed in 2006, she tried desperately to get to Atlanta for her service but was hindered by the winter weather in Detroit. As talented as she was as a singer and songwriter, Ms. Franklin’s legacy extends far beyond that of a dynamic singer and entertainer. She was a shining example of how to utilize the arts and entertainment to support and promote nonviolent social change. On behalf of The King Center family, I extend my deepest sympathy to the Franklin family. Ms. Franklin was a good and faithful servant and she will be sorely missed.”
Rep. John Lewis:
“We have lost one of the great artists of our time. Aretha Franklin was so talented. She was one of God’s precious gifts to the world—one of God’s shining jewels. She is deeply loved by hundreds, thousands, and millions of people as the Queen of Soul. Her skill as a composer, arranger, pianist, and vocalist made her an icon, and her interpretations of gospel and soul music came to define a new category of artistry called rhythm and blues. Her voice is still a guiding light to vocalists today who hope to breathe the same kind of vibrant truth into lyrics and melody that Aretha brought to her music.
“What made her talent so great was her capacity to live what she sang. Her music was deepened by her connection to the struggles and the triumphs of the African American experience growing up in her father’s church, the community of Detroit, and her awareness of the turmoil of the South. She had a lifelong, unwavering commitment to civil rights and was one of the strongest supporters of the movement. She was our sister and our friend. Whenever I would see her, from time to time, she would always inquire about the well-being of people she met and worked with during the sixties.
“When she sang, she embodied what we were fighting for, and her music strengthened us. It revived us. When we would be released from jail after a non-violent protest, we might go to a late night club and let the music of Aretha Franklin fill our hearts. She was like a muse whose songs whispered the strength to continue on. Her music gave us a greater sense of determination to never give up or give in, and to keep the faith.
“She was a wonderful, talented human being. We mourn for Aretha Franklin. We have lost the Queen of Soul.”
Elisabeth Omilami:
“On behalf of the family of Rev. Hosea and Mrs. Juanita T. Williams, we at Hosea Helps, Inc. and our staff, volunteers, donors and Board of Directors offer our condolences to the family of Queen Aretha Franklin on this bitter-sweet day.
When an artist can find a way to use their art and their celebrity to serve the world, apart from the impact of their music on the millions of individual souls that have heard and will hear it, that is an artist that the hand of God is using in a powerful way.
Whenever I heard of Aretha Franklin and her Father, and when I met them prior to and after the death of Martin Luther King Jr., it was related to their performing for or financially supporting the movement for civil rights led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., my parents’ boss.
She cared about the movement that Dr. King and his staff lived and did whatever she could to let people know where she stood. She was not just about Aretha and she was generous with her finances and her time to her family and others in need. She did not advertise this generosity, nor did she require tons of thank-yous and attention for it. Her donations and support were done almost anonymously as if she were an ordinary, normal person – and indeed we all know that she was a special human being. She was endowed with special vision and a virtuosity that stretched from the pain in the juke-joint melody to the tradition of the Opera.
It is because of this kind of generosity from many of the talented individuals today, who have had the blessing of God to have wealth and careers, that artists can make such a big difference in the education of needy children, the care of the elderly, the housing of the homeless and the feeding of the hungry. When we are given such great gifts, as Aretha Franklin points out and models for us in her life, that fortune is not for us alone, but is for the world.
She stated, “A Diva to me is a singer that gives back”.
She leaves lessons for all of us to say – whatever we have, be it one dollar or one hour, we are to share ourselves. We are to pour out ourselves into the cauldron of life and be that light in the darkness and allow ourselves to be loved and admired while still maintaining our humanity and concern for others.
The civil rights movement was the opportunity for all of us to show our true humanity. Today’s movement for human rights is another. May we all look at Aretha’s life and use it as an example of how to care, how to give back all we can, to the people who do so need it.
She is resting in peace now, and we still fight the good fight of faith carrying that blood-stained banner of Freedom, Love, Peace, and Hope for our world. Always remember her, never forget her message and that of her Father, and LIVE as she did – LOVE!”

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