A last minute plan to allow members of the public to attend Aretha Franklin’s Homegoing celebration drew hundreds to northwest Detroit. Some fans began lining up as early as 6 p.m. the night before at the street corner of Shiawassee and 7 Mile.
That included folks from hundreds of miles away, like Sir Diego Brazil. He arrived earlier this week to attend every event linked to the Queen of Soul. When he heard Aretha Franklin’s family was opening up the church to allow some of the public inside he made plans to arrive early.
“When I was going through a tough time of my life that music helped me at a time I need it the most,” said Brazil.
The excitement was obvious. Sir Diego Brazil told 7 Action News that he arrived late Thursday afternoon and stayed out all night to ensure a spot inside the celebration of life.
The problem, however, was that Brazil and others lined up along Shiawassee. Hours later, Detroit Police announced by bullhorn that the would-be Homegoing attendees would have to line up on 7 Mile causing a mad dash for people to line up — the road quickly filled with people trying to weave their way to the front of the line fearing they’d spent 10+ hours in line only to be jumped by late arrivals. Limited space fueled emotions after hours of calm celebration.
“I’m not disputing how you had set up, I understand that,” said Officer Bell, talking to one of the people who started a direct conversation with police. “Nobody likes to be displaced, but if we are out to pay our respects than all of this shouldn’t be.”
Hundreds of people were stuck in the street not wanting to leave and lose their spot in line, but police were announcing they’d keep everyone from entering if they couldn’t get control of the crowd. Ultimately, police got control of the situation but those who were in line for hours were fired up because it had been peaceful all night before the last minute change.
“They have screwed up this morning, there’s a lot of chaos and now people who were at the front are now at the end,” said Glenda McGadney.
McGadney said it brought negative attention to what was supposed to be a celebration for the Queen of Soul.
“It makes us look like we don’t know how to get along, or organize ourselves, but we were organized,” she said.
Police located in the crowd told 7 Action News that it appeared security guards had given people the wrong information of where to line up earlier in the morning, or late Thursday evening. Others noted that the late addition to the invite to 1,000+ people created a crowd control situation no one had expected.
As for some fans, they said it was a frustrating situation but they wanted to make sure the focus remained on Aretha Franklin.
“We’re still honoring Aretha, we’re still honoring this great woman,” said another woman in the crowd. “I’m not happy, but we can’t let this distract.”