The Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. of the Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta, is under fire for remarks he made at Aretha Franklin's funeral on Friday.
What were the comments?
During his eulogy of the legendary performer, Williams Jr. said that black America is in the process of losing its soul. He also added that black families are increasingly at risk because of being raised without fathers, calling the notion "abortion after birth."
Franklin herself was a single mother of four children, but Williams Jr. was adamant that he was not attempting to point at Franklin.
Many on social media called the reverend's remarks inappropriate.
Williams Jr. also said that black lives do not matter — and cannot matter — until the black community starts taking care of its own.
“Do black lives matter?" Williams Jr. asked. "Let me answer like this. No. Black lives do not matter, 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.”
Performer Stevie Wonder, who sang and played a tribute to Franklin, especially seemed to take issue with the reverend's fiery remarks.
During his segment, Wonder said, “We can talk about all the things that are wrong and there are many but the only thing that can deliver us is love. So what needs to happen today not only in this nation but throughout the world is that we need to make love great again.”
He added, “Because black lives do matter, because all lives do matter and if we love God then we know truly that it is our love that will make all things matter, when we make love great again. That is what Aretha has said throughout her life. Throughout the pain, she gave us the joy and said ‘Let’s make love great again.’”
In a Sunday night interview with The Associated Press, Williams Jr. said he stood by his remarks.
"I was trying to show that the movement now is moving and should move in a different direction," he explained. "... [W]hat we need to do is create respect among ourselves. 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."
Williams Jr. said that his remarks were especially pointed in response to those people who spoke at Franklin's funeral and invoked discussions about the civil rights movement.
"Anybody who thinks black America is all right as we are now is crazy," he added. "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," Williams Jr. explained. "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."
Williams Jr. even responded to Wonder's remarks during his portion of honor.
"I think Stevie Wonder did not understand what I said," the reverend reasoned. "I said black do not matter, because black lives can not 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 those people on social media criticizing his funeral remarks, Williams Jr. simply doesn't believe they understand what it was he was actually saying.
"I'm sure much of the negativity is due to the fact that they don't understand what I'm talking about," he concluded.