#eulogizingaretha: The Audacity to Be Free – The Feminist Wire

#eulogizingaretha: The Audacity to Be Free

By Rev. Lacette Cross

Aretha Franklin performs during “The Gospel Tradition: In Performance at the White House” in the East Room of the White House, April 14, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:36 (NRSV)

“It ain’t necessarily so

It ain’t necessarily so

The things that you’re liable

To read in the Bible

It ain’t necessarily so.”

And yet when we read of freedom, even in the bible, we have a sense of hope. There is a thing about freedom that sparks something deep inside of us. We saw that spark in the life of Aretha Louise Franklin. We come to this space to celebrate that undeniable spirit of freedom that rested, ruled, and abided in the life of the Queen of Soul. The daughter of a singer and a preacher, a child of the church, a woman of the blues, she was the embodiment of womanish ways. A mother of sons and a grandmother of presence, she was indeed a Black woman known by many, cherished by all.

This woman – Aretha – showed us who she was in the fullness of her artistry. There is no denying the streak of freedom that marked her life, just listen to any one of her greatest hits. You will hear and feel the glorious ways freedom makes you love with all that you got and still walk away when you’re not getting what you need. It is the freedom to call on “Dr. Feelgood” and still command R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The kind of freedom that lets you walk around in the world feeling like a “Natural Woman,” always ready to “Say a Little Prayer” for those who need it.  

There is no denying that the kind of radically liberated life Aretha Franklin sang about in her songs was also the kind out-of-the-box theology blues women embodied.* Queen Aretha stands in a long line of blues women who by their embodied presence made plain that “a saved soul is inextricably related to a free body.” In fact, what other way would the son of God who makes us free have it be? His life and witness shows us that in order to be free indeed you must be free in mind, body, and spirit. This is the way of loving God, self, and others – freedom.

So you betta think…think about what your freedom feels, looks, and sounds like. What has made you free enough to be you? And what is the freedom that God is calling you to? “Rock Steady” in the work of a life towards freedom. Because what we know from her living, her being, and her dying, freedom is the work of moving toward a brand new you and me. So beloved, let us be made free by the power of a liberating God and the witness of a freedom living Queen.  

* Kelly Brown Douglas “Black Bodies and the Black Church: A Blues Slant”

Rev. Lacette Cross, affectionately called Rev. L, lives in Richmond, VA.  She is the founder of Will You Be Whole that talks sex and faith for wholeness with black women and those who love them. She is an ordained Baptist minister with twenty years’ experience working in the church and community.  Rev. L is a self-identified sex-positive Christian who is committed to informing, inspiring and influencing others to reconcile their sexuality and faith. She has participated in conferences, workshops, panels and summits throughout the country on topics of sexuality, LGBTQ inclusion, race, gender, religion and justice. She is committed to creating brave space for all persons, particularly black women and LGBTQ persons, to heal and become their full authentic self. Her work is grounded in womanist theological ethics with a commitment to the collective liberation and safety of Black people and those who love them. Rev. L holds Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Divinity, and Master of Theology degrees. She is the pastor of Restoration Fellowship RVA, an open and affirming church doing church differently, in Richmond, VA. Rev. L has been actively involved in the greater Richmond community as a faith leader, community advocate, speaker, and volunteer. During her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends, trying out new restaurants, watching sci-fi action movies and reading good books.