Roots of Aretha Franklin, Proletarian Culture and the Rise of Black Detroit

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Queen of Soul was an outstanding manifestation of the African American struggle for dignity and freedom

Detroit artist and social activist Aretha Franklin passed into her ancestral realm on Wednesday morning August 16 while surrounded by family and friends in her Detroit Riverfront condominium downtown.

It had been announced the previous week that Aretha was gravely ill and was hospitalized. 

Later press accounts indicated that she was checked out of the hospital and sent home possibly under hospice care. These were difficult reports for many people in the Detroit area to accept at their face value. 

The Queen of Soul had been ill in the past and hospitalized. Several years before, media accounts claimed she was suffering from pancreatic cancer and was terminal. However, contradictory claims publicized through television, radio, print and internet platforms said these reports were unsubstantiated….

….With the death of Rev. Franklin in 1984, the retirement of Mayor Young in early 1994, the continuing economic decline of the city of Detroit, many could ask: where is the Black Political Power movement in the city? The Great Recession of 2007 and beyond took a devastating toll on Detroit. The city was targeted through predatory lending by the financial institutions turning Detroit from being a municipality leading in home ownership for African Americans to its present-day status of a majority renter’s city. Homeownership, stable industrial and professional employment, had distinguished the African American community from other cities across the U.S. 

Today in 2018, under a white corporate-imposed mayor from Livonia who came into office under questionable circumstances during an illegally crafted system of emergency management and bankruptcy (2013-2014), the largest municipal re-organization in U.S. history, the people of Detroit are still struggling against property tax foreclosures, poverty, substandard wages, a state-looted and beleaguered educational system, environmental degradation, government-facilitated tax captures for the benefit of multi-national corporations, among other issues.

Yet there remains a social and political determination to resist. In response to the severe illness and later death of Aretha Franklin, people have come out in their thousands to express sincere condolences and to evoke the memories of times past where the struggle for survival, equality, self-determination and political power took precedent over all other concerns. This is the genuine legacy of the Queen of Soul, the Franklin family, along with the African American people as a whole and their allies.         

Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of Pan-African News Wire. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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