Michigan moves closer to naming highway stretch for Aretha Franklin

    Aretha Franklin mural in Detroit's Eastern Market | Ken Coleman

    The Michigan House Transportation Committee this week unanimously approved HB 4060, sponsored by state Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit), which would designate a portion of M-10 in Detroit the Aretha L. Franklin Memorial Highway.

    Although Franklin was born in Memphis, Tenn., she and her family moved to Detroit in 1946 and the Motor City is where she made her home. She passed away on Aug. 18, 2018, at age 76.

    Aretha Franklin | Wikimedia Commons

    Several members of Franklin’s family were present and testified before the committee on Tuesday expressing their support and the significance of this unique memorial.

    “Aretha Franklin was more than a musical icon, she was a civil rights leader and humanitarian champion,” Love said. “She generously gave her time, talent and treasurer to support causes such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign; the AARP with an original song, ‘Stand Up for Yourself’ that became the anthem for national health care reform; and she remixed her hit “Think” for the ‘Think … Don’t Drive with Drugs and Drink’ public service campaign.”

    Franklin used her platform to create and sustain social change. She was recognized for her work with commemorative doctorate degrees, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Kennedy Center Honor and the Grammy Awards’ MusiCares Person of the Year.

    In 1992, she was inducted as an honorary membership of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Lois Bingham, Detroit Alumni chapter president, also offered supporting testimony before the committee.

    The stretch of memorial highway would begin at Livernois, near New Bethel Baptist Church where Franklin’s father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, was the pastor, and end at I-94.

    Leslie Love

    The section was chosen as a symbol of her roots and connection with her community, from her humble beginnings at her father’s church to her tremendous international impact.

    House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann) said he was pleased to take up the legislation.

    “As a native Detroiter and lifelong Michigander, I’m proud that one of my first acts as chairman is to honor the great Aretha Franklin,” he said.

    The bill was referred with unanimous consent to the House Ways and Means Committee for review. The next stop after that would be a vote on the full floor of the state House.

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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