Long Live the Queen

Queendom: When all power is concentrated in a central female figure.

Lady Soul. Concerts are occurring across the world in honor of the Queen of Soul. Musicians everywhere are evoking emotion from audiences in a tribute to a woman who used her voice as a form of social justice. Forty-two studio albums, 18 Grammy awards, 75 million records sold worldwide, the Queen spent a lifetime producing bodies of work from 1956 to 2017.

It is a challenge to recall the first time I heard the Queen. She has always been a part of my upbringing. From church to family gatherings to parties, I can feel the sounds of her voice from my soul to my toes. Her voice reminds me of the power of being black and the freedom afforded to me by those who fought for civil rights. It is unimaginable to think how the quality of performing shifted throughout her lifetime thanks to the fight for civil rights. From performing in front of segregated crowds to spaces where she would never be allowed as a guest because of the color of her skin. Imagine having tear gas sprayed in fans during performances yet, still singing. The strength she must have had in fighting for civil rights and watching those whom she supported be assassinated for the cause and yet, still persisting.

Young, Gifted, and Black. Queen Franklin’s fight for social justice was heavily influenced by her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, who served as a key organizer of the 1963 Detroit Walk to Freedom. From great leaders traveling to and from her house to watching her father preach black pride before it was popular, she used her voice to propel civil rights. In the 1960’s she added to her contract that she would not perform in front of racially segregated audiences. In addition, she executed free concerts and supported the campaigns of black leaders. Her boldness and confidence was greatly displayed when she spoke out in support of political activist Angela Davis, which at that time was a very dangerous stance to take. The Queen harnessed her gifts, talents, and finances to uplift black communities. In a Jet Magazine article in 1970, the Queen said, “I got…[money]…from black people — they’ve made me financially able to have it — and I want to use it in ways to help…[black]…people.” She helped to move the race forward, unapologetically.

The California African American Policy Priorities Survey suggests 71% of black voters consider “fighting discrimination and institutional racism” to be an extremely high priority. In 2018, we are still fighting; 50+ years after Aretha started her fight for justice. The Queen used her voice in the struggle for freedom to lift the race higher. Now, we must carry the torch by continuing to lift our voices.

The Electrifying Aretha Franklin. We say good-bye to the Queen; physically gone, but spiritually living on. She will forever be a part of our souls and a reminder to continue our fight toward civil rights.