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Aretha Franklin memorialized with section of Lodge Freeway

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Aretha Franklin's legacy is being memorialized with a portion of the Lodge Freeway dedicated to the late singer. 

The stretch of M-10 from Livernois to Interstate 94 was revealed as the Aretha L. Franklin Memorial Highway on Monday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and other state and city leaders. 

The dedicated stretch of freeway was marked with a sign located on the Lodge near Pallister in the New Center area that will be visible for those going north and south.

The Aretha L. Franklin Memorial Highway sign was unveiled Monday.

"The people of Michigan are proud to claim Aretha Franklin," Whitmer said. "Now as people from all over the world travel to Detroit on the Aretha Franklin Memorial Highway, they will be reminded of the profound impact that she had on the city and on the state."

Franklin's hit songs including "Freeway of Love" blasted through speakers at the unveiling ceremony. Pink Cadillacs lined the side of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 38 union building where the ceremony was held

The granddaughters of Franklin, Victorie and Grace Franklin, sung the Black national anthem, "Lift Every Voice." Son Edward Franklin also sung two selections at the ceremony. 

"I would just like to say how proud I am of my mother today," said KeCalf Franklin, her youngest son. "We just want to say from the family... thank you for all the great support over the last two years it has been very gratefully appreciated by the family."

Along with Franklin's family, community leaders such as Mayor Mike Duggan, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib were also in attendance, including the Rev. Robert Smith, who is now pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church, which was Franklin's father's church.

"Unlike others who came from the city and left, this freeway actually tracks the extraordinary course of her life," said Duggan. "Anybody who passes through this city, no matter how briefly, is going to be reminded that the queen of soul came from the city of Detroit."

The dedication ceremony comes over a year after Whitmer signed the House Bill 4060 that officially declared the portion of the freeway to be named in Franklin's honor.

The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Leslie Love, D-Detroit, who introduced the measure in January 2019. It cleared the House in a 101-6 vote two months later. The Senate signed off 32-5 in June of that year. 

"I am honored that we get to drive down this M-10 and see those signs whether you're going northbound or southbound. It is significant and it is relevant because I know people here think this was easy... this was not easy," said Love. 

A handful of Republicans opposed the measure in each chamber, arguing highway designations should be reserved for military veterans and first responders. Love pointed out that no taxpayer dollars were used in the designation of the freeway.

Franklin, who who was born in Tennessee but lived most of her life in Detroit and got her start in her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church, died in 2018 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

"I'm so honored that I met you and that I'm the person to do this to honor you in this way... Sister Franklin we just thank you for your legacy and your love," Love said tearfully while looking toward the sky.