R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. She was also a philanthropist and a fundraiser.  


Aretha Franklin – African American philanthropist.With the passing of Aretha Franklin, the airwaves are awash in her music, and news reports are filled with testimony to her voice and spirit. Presidents, ministers, entertainers, and civil rights advocates publicly sing her praises. As Smokey Robinson shared, “She has left us with a musical legacy that kids who haven’t even been born yet will get a chance to experience.”

The Queen of Soul became the musical voice for a generation: her songs were anthems of the movements for civil rights and women’s rights. A preacher’s daughter she felt everything she did – whether with her talent or her position – was a gift from God. The way she communicated her music and the way she loved her family were all part of how she loved her God.  Throughout her life she kept her common touch and the salt-of-the-earth attitude, giving back to the common man and woman of all races.

She had her fair share of personal and professional disappointments and setbacks. But in spite of these, Aretha always found a way to give back and be heard with her music and her pocketbook. She did not let her personal disappointments and pain derail her from giving back to the community. She encouraged others to keep looking ahead and to focus on overcoming challenges.

Aretha Franklin is one example of the many people who work – without fanfare – behind the scenes. We share a few examples of her philanthropy and leadership to inspire others, and to recognize the unsung role of African American women in fundraising.

  1. Constant support of civil rights: publicly as an activist, and privately underwriting organizational costs
  2. Cooked and provided meals to people on the frontline of the civil rights movement
  3. Provided her home as a place for people to meet and plan.
  4. Concert performances with proceeds benefitting diverse nonprofits

She spoke out in words that resonate today when she offered to pay bail for Angela Davis when she was arrested. “I have the money; I got it from Black people ― they’ve made me financially able to have it ― and I want to use it in ways that will help our people.”

Her work wasn’t about public recognition, acclaim or exposure. She knew that because of her position she was compelled to give back. She always made it clear that if it wasn’t for her community, she wouldn’t be where she was today. She was not busy beating her chest, she was living her commitment.

She never left her roots despite of her fame and fortune. She was always guided by her roots, from the day she was born until she died. She was connected spiritually to her community and lived those principles through giving back.

As we listened to tributes to the Queen of Soul she was hailed for picking up the phone, calling churches, political and nonprofit leaders to say, “I hear you, I support you, I am behind you.”

Aretha Franklin provided an important example: there is always something you can do. Find your way within your comfort zone. You don’t have to lead a committee or be a public speaker. Follow her lead as a quiet strength, a behind the scenes person. In our world of nonprofits there are more people who work behind the scenes than as public leaders.


Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Let’s all show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T with how we give and lead. Learn more at www.saadandshaw.com.

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