Two days ago, a small group of North Texas residents planned to get together to pray for Aretha Franklin, the legendary soul singer who was suffering after a long fight against a killer — pancreatic cancer.
After Franklin died Thursday, the gathering was transformed into a memorial service.
“We are losing a lot of our icons — Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston,” said Angelica McKinney, the man who played some of Franklin’s songs during the event. “She touched the hands of Clinton, Obama, George Bush. She was someone that I looked up to for just the way she lived her life.”
Dondre Johnson said he had to be there with others, meeting on the steps of the old Tarrant County Courthouse, to pay homage to the melodious voice of the great Aretha Franklin.
“I’ve listened to her throughout the years,” Johnson said. “She made a great impact on my life. I especially liked her gospel music.”
Donnell Ballard, one of the organizers of the event, said he has been putting together local vigils in Fort Worth for national celebrities for decades.
“A lot of people don’t have the money to get to Detroit or Chicago or Los Angeles to pay their respects,” Ballard said. “And it’s important to remember a great woman who did so much for the civil rights movement and to pave a way for those who came behind her.
“She donated a lot to the United Negro College Fund. There are a lot of our children who were able to go to school because of her.”