Aretha Franklin 'almost in same category' as anti-segregation campaigner Rosa Parks
PUBLISHED: 09:50 29 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:01 29 August 2018
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‘Her passion for doing the right thing inspired and touched so many facing adversity, not just in America but across the world’
Visibility is crucial in creating momentum for change, and Aretha Franklin shone. The highspot was 50 years ago: The first of two Grammy awards in February, 1968, and on the cover of Time magazine in the summer. In terms of strengthening confidence and pride within a community still seeking equality in America (and, that spring, shocked by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr) you probably couldn’t get a higher profile.
Activist the Rev Al Sharpton called her a “civil rights and humanitarian icon”, and former Ipswich mayor Hamil Clarke reckons that’s apt.
“I would put her almost – and I say ‘almost’ because comparing people is difficult – in the same category as Rosa Parks. She was one of these people that put their head above the parapet,” says Hamil, who helped launch Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) 41 years ago.
Rosa Parks was the Alabama bus passenger who in 1955 refused to cede her seat in the “colored section” to a white traveller, when the whites-only area was full. Her arrest triggered a bus boycott that became a symbol of resistance to segregation.
Aretha’s funeral this Friday is at the Detroit church where she sang at Rosa’s funeral in 2005.
Like Hamil, Albert Grant is also an ex-Ipswich mayor, a trustee of ISCRE, and instrumental in its creation.
He says of Aretha Franklin’s role in the equal rights movement: “She put a lot of effort into it, and she was one of the people that black Americans looked up to. She deserves all the recognition she’s getting. She didn’t do a lot of shouting and so on, but she did a lot behind the scenes. She got there quietly and made her contribution to the cause.
“As well as that, she was a brilliant singer and a brilliant performer.”
Glen Chisholm, whose father was of Jamaican descent, is another former Ipswich mayor. He says: “While her music transcended race and had the ability to bring people of all backgrounds together, she also played a major part in the American civil rights movement.
“Her music was the soundtrack and the soul of the movement but she also offered financial support for the civil rights movement. Her passion for doing the right thing inspired and touched so many facing adversity, not just in America but across the world.”