A Queen and her common folks: Aretha Franklin's homegoing

Herb Boyd | 9/6/2018, 7 p.m.
As only an admiring peon, I had no invitation to attend the homegoing of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
Homegoing for Aretha Franklin at Greater Grace Temple Church in Detroit, MI McArthur Stuckey

dispensing bottled water.

There were no fans or water distributed at Shiawassee and the only shade to be found was under an occasional umbrella held aloft by a few good thinking men and women. One of them was tall enough to provide a bit of shade for me along with her enormous black hat that almost matched the one that the eminent actress Cicely Tyson wore. “My oh my,” the shading woman sighed at one point, “look up there...not a cloud in the sky. What a lovely day. Thank you, Jesus.”

These were about the only encouraging words heard from a crowd that was increasingly restless and frustrated by the long wait and the commands of the police for them to step back from the curb and later to form a single file. I arrived at eight and two hours later the megapod of a crowd finally began to move toward the church. Each person was given a white band, not like the black ones worn by the invitees. Once inside the church we were led to our section, almost like attending a baseball game and confined to the bleachers.

But after standing in the hot sun for hours, a seat anywhere inside was a pleasure and I took it gladly and hiked up to the last row and settled down in a sanctuary that would eventually hold more than 4,000 spectators and participants. Soon we were greeted by another long delay and the pianist played chorus after chorus of a spiritual, probably to accompany the endless line of family members as they made their way to their pews.

I thought the Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony’s church, Fellowship Chapel, was vast and spectacular, but I could see why the Temple was chosen for the Queen’s farewell as well as other notables such as Rosa Parks. Equally impressive was the fleet of white limousines and the 1940 LaSalle hearse from Swanson’s Funeral Home. The place, the cars, and the assembly of dignitaries were perfectly fitting and necessary for the Queen, and before the long service was concluded—and it would take more than seven hours for speakers and performers to extol her magnificence and the variety of ways in which she enriched our lives—practically every superlative had been expressed.

When you are seated an eighth of a mile from the stage and the screens, you have to wait for a reaction from the crowd to indicate the arrival of an important personality or wait until the word reaches you minutes later that Bill and Hillary Clinton had arrived.

At Chene Park, where a concert was staged in tribute to the Queen, the spotlight on the canvas ceiling often told you who the music and dance performers were at this venue, which later would be renamed the Aretha Franklin Park. These performances compared favorably with those delivered at the Temple, though the intent was obviously different.

A more descriptive and detailed account of what occurred at the Temple will come from our reporter who was much closer to the action and thereby able to give you the scoop on some the highlights of the event.