Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Fans mourn Aretha Franklin at gospel-infused public viewing

Published:Tuesday | August 28, 2018 | 9:34 AM
In this November 2, 2005 file photo, Aretha Franklin sings during the funeral for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. Franklin died August 16, 2018, of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DETROIT (AP) — Mourners began pouring into Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Tuesday to pay their final respects to Aretha Franklin.

They approached her gold-plated casket to the sounds of her gospel recordings.

She was in repose, dressed in red from head to high-heeled shoes, legs crossed at the ankles.

As they approached, people who came from as far away as Las Vegas and Miami cried, crossed themselves, bowed their heads or blew kisses.

Museum board member Kelly Major Green said the goal was to create a dignified and respectful environment akin to a church, the place where Franklin got her start.

“What we wanted to do is be reflective of the Queen,” Green said.

“It’s beautiful. She’s beautiful.”

With her legs crossed at the ankles, Green said Franklin communicates both power and comfort, as she did in life.

The shoes, in particular, show “The Queen of Soul is diva to the end,” Green said.

Tammy Gibson, 49, of Chicago said she arrived about 5:30 a.m.

She came alone but made fast friends with others who sang and reminisced.

Growing up, Gibson said she heard Franklin’s music “playing all the time” by her parents, who “told me to go to bed — it’s an adult party.”

Outside the museum, she said: “I know people are sad, but it’s just celebrating — people dancing and singing her music.”

Franklin has been a constant in her life.

I saw the gold-plated casket — it dawned on me: She’s gone, but her legacy and her music will live on forever.”

The setting for the two days of public viewings could not be more fitting, according to Paula Marie Seniors, an associate professor of Africana studies at Virginia Tech.

“I think it’s incredibly significant — she is being honoured almost like a queen at one of the most important black museums in the United States,” said Seniors, who visited the museum several years ago when she was in Detroit doing research.

The Queen of Soul, Seniors said, was “a singer of the universe.” Yet she added that Franklin, who died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76, also was “so unapologetically black — she was so proud of being a black woman.”

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