Aretha Franklin's birthday, film premiere celebrated
Before the screening of the Aretha Franklin documentary “Amazing Grace” at the Detroit Film Theatre, a pre-bash was held in the atrium of the nearby Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
Attendees, including Martha Reeves, Wayne County Circuit Judge Craig Strong, Bishop Charles Ellis and his wife, Crisette, former Sen. Coleman Young Jr. and former boxer Thomas Hearns, were dressed to the nines, and soul and R&B music blasted from the speakers while the invite-only crowd enjoyed appetizers and drinks. The chilly March evening was a perfect opportunity to don fur coats one last time this season.
Franklin’s niece Sabrina Garrett Owens was sparkling in a white and silver sequined dress that was given to her by Franklin.
“I’m very excited about tonight, everybody’s coming out, all the beautiful people,” she said. “I’m looking forward to them seeing the film. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did."
Owens, who helped get the long-shelved film to see the light of day, said she first saw it about three years ago.
“It really moved me,” she said. “The Gospel music just moved me, seeing Aretha during that time period, in her youth, her shyness ... it’s all really nice.”
Producer Tirrell D. Whittley on Aretha Franklin documentary "Amazing Grace" during the premiere in Detroit on March 25, 2019. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News
Owens’ aunt, Earline Franklin, also glittered in sequins. She’s the widow of Franklin’s late brother, the Rev. Cecil Franklin.
“I got a lot of mixed emotions. My husband was in this film,” Earline Franklin said. “He was also the person who closed the deal in 1974 to have this movie shot. I’m just excited for the producers, and for Sabrina and for the family. It’s finally happening.”
Earline Franklin said Detroit is the right city to premiere the film.
“If Aretha was here, she would be having a party," she said. "It would have been Friday or Saturday, because today is her birthday. She would have one in Detroit and one in New York.
“She would be so delighted,” she said of the premiere and party. “We’re just so happy the weather held up and everything is great. The people are beautiful and everything is fine.”
Kecalf Franklin, the Queen of Soul's son, said he was pleased with the outcome of the film.
“I’m very happy that everyone came out and I’m very proud that it’s my Mom’s birthday,” he said.