DETROIT – What began as a thin line swelled in a sea of sisterhood as hundreds of members of Delta Sigma Theta broadcast in the rotunda of the Charles H. Wright Museum on Tuesday to pay tribute to the Queen of Soul, a member of the association.
The moving ceremony, known as the Omega Omega Service, is usually not open to non-sorority members. The rare exception was the last testament to the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin, remembered by her sisters as a proud black woman who demanded respect and loved her community.
“She loved Delta and her ideals … she looked for the best in others. Her life was an inspiration,” said U.S. House Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a member of the association, who was elected the first black mayor of Southfield, Michigan, in 2001.
At least 1,000 Delta Sigma Thetas from around the country attended the service, which lasted nearly an hour and is traditionally performed for a member for her funeral. Stand in a semi-circle around Franklin’s family, the women filed for the almost 10 minutes of wearing black dresses, pearl necklaces, and corsages of the African violets, the society’s official flower.
The traditional service greeted Franklin with words, writings and songs.
Especially emotional was the singing of the Delta Prayer, which filled the roundabout, as Franklin’s sisters sung to her in chorus.
Franklin was inducted as an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta in 1992. The association is one of the cultural institutions that they loved, including the black church and historically black colleges.
Delta Sigma Theta was founded in 1913 at Howard University in Washington, D. C. Among its members are poet Nikki Giovanni, a pioneer of the congress and Shirley Chisholm, entertainer Lena Horne, actresses Ruby Dee and Cicely Tyson, and civil rights activist Dorothy Height.
Franklin’s commitment to social justice, and the action is in accordance with Delta Sigma Theta roots and mission, says National President Beverly E. Smith.
“She was a real, strong, Delta, and embodied who we are through the songs they sang, by the way she carried herself and by the boldness she took in terms of social justice,” Smith said in an interview after the service. “
On the first day of its public viewing for her funeral service on Friday, Franklin was beautiful in her association’s signature crimson. She wore the colour from head to toe, including red Christian Louboutin stilettos, red lipstick and red nail Polish.
Thousands of mourners poured into the museum to take their last respects to Franklin, died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. The two-day review was part of a week of commemorations for the legend.
At the end of the Delta Sigma Theta ceremony, Franklin’s sorors submitted along with its gold-plated coffin to say goodbye in a final act of sisterhood. Smith said that women came from all over the country show their respect and solidarity.
“That is the strength of the relationship we have, making sure as black women, we support each other,” Smith said. “They came not of themselves; they are simply a number in the crowd. But they came to support someone who meant something to us and that there is something to this country.”
Whack is The Associated Press’ national writer on race and ethnicity. Follow her work on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/emarvelous .
For more, visit https://apnews.com/tag/ArethaFranklin .