The Thabo Mbeki Foundation joins millions of people throughout the globe in mourning the passing of musician Aretha Franklin, the ‘Queen of Soul’, who sadly departed on August 16, 2018.
For over five decades, Aretha Franklin was the daily companion of millions in their homes, entertainment houses and elsewhere as her sweet melodies and prose kept them hooked both in enchantment and thought.
She prodded the consciences of her audiences and made us alive to the dangers and follies of human excesses when she implored on us to dream the beautiful dream of respect for one another’s humanity in a world in which demanding respect and the right to live has often required resolute and prolonged struggles.
In this regard we cannot forget to mention that she was a great militant and activist of the historic human rights struggle in the US, brought into this struggle during her childhood by her father.
Her father, Rev C. L. Franklin, was a friend and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr. He organised the 1963 Detroit Walk to Freedom, which was the largest civil-rights demonstration in American history until the March to Washington two months later.
In a tribute to her, as reported in TheJournal.ie, the civil rights activist and leader, Ambassador Andrew Young, said:
“Her songs were songs of the Movement. RESPECT…that’s basically what we wanted. The movement was about respect…Almost every time (the Movement) needed money, there were two people we could always count on: Aretha Franklin and Harry Belafonte. They would get together and have a concert, and that would put us back on our feet…(Martin Luther) King and Franklin were like spiritual siblings, sharing a bond rooted in their Christian faith…”
It should therefore come as no surprise that Aretha Franklin was also an activist of the US anti-apartheid movement. When Nelson Mandela visited the US in 1990, his itinerary deliberately included Detroit, Aretha’s home town. Most fitting, she welcomed him with beautiful music at a rally held in his honour in the presence of such other human rights and anti-apartheid activists as Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson and Stevie Wonder.
US ABC News interviewed Aretha Franklin immediately after Nelson Mandela passed away. Commenting on his release in 1990, she said: “It was tremendous. It was a lot of excitement. Electricity in the air.”
She went on to say: “And he was truly one of the great heroes of our time. His spirit and his ideals and his heart and his soul could not be imprisoned. (If I was going to perform a tribute song for him now, it would be) Respect. No doubt about it. Respect.”
Like Harry Belafonte and other renowned musicians throughout the world, Aretha Franklin belonged to the very big, informal and influential movement known as Artists Against Apartheid, whose members used both their talents and their influence to reinforce the struggle for our liberation.
As an example of their activities, some of these Artists combined in a large group which called itself Artists United Against Apartheid to record an anti-apartheid song entitled ‘Sun City’, whose refrain was “I ain’t gonna play Sun City!”
The royalties from the sale of the record were used to support political prisoners and their families as well as the educational needs of those who were in exile.
The Patron of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, President Thabo Mbeki, the board and staff of the Foundation wish to extend their heartfelt condolences to Aretha Franklin’s family, her friends and colleagues in the United States and her partners and protégés in the world of music.
Her departure is a particular loss to all those, throughout the world, who still struggle to gain the Respect due to them!.
May her soul rest in peace.
Issued by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation
August 20, 2018
Further Inquiries: Siyabulela Gebe, 072 371 4807