Every year since 1969, the Gospel Music Association has presented the Dove Awards, an annual show that honors achievements in the Christian music industry. For decades, the biggest star in gospel music has been Kirk Franklin. Franklin has scored actual crossover hits, and he’s collaborated with people like Kanye West and Chance The Rapper. Over the past 26 years, Franklin has won dozens of Dove Awards.
At this year’s show, Franklin won the award for Gospel Artist Of The Year. While accepting his award, Franklin talked about Atatiana Jefferson, the 28-year-old black woman who was killed in her home by a white police officer earlier this month. When the show was broadcast on Trinity Broadcasting Network, Franklin saw that his comments about Jefferson had been cut. In response, Franklin has announced that he is now boycotting the Dove Awards.
Jefferson was shot and killed two weeks ago. One of her neighbors had noticed that her door was ajar and called a non-emergency number to ask that someone check on her. Jefferson, looking out her window, saw police coming across her lawn. An officer shot her through her window. Jefferson had a gun, which she lawfully owned, near her. In body-cam footage, police yelled at her to put her hands up. There is no indication that they identified themselves as police or that they even saw Jefferson’s gun. Her eight-year-old nephew was with her when she was killed. Officer Aaron Dean, the man who shot her, has retired from the Fort Worth police force, and he’s being charged with murder.
In his speech, Franklin, a Fort Worth native, said, “This past weekend, a young 28-year-old lady, a young girl by the name of Atatiana Jefferson was shot and killed in her home by a policeman. And I am just asking that we send up prayers for her family and for his, and asking that we send up prayers for that eight-year-old little boy that saw that tragedy.” Those comments were not in the TBN broadcast. The GMA later updated Franklin’s full speech to YouTube, and you can watch it below.
As The Tennesseean reports, Franklin posted a Facebook video yesterday. In the video, Franklin said that it was the second time his acceptance speech for the Best Gospel Artist award had been cut. In a 2016 ceremony, he’d talked about the police killings of Philado Castile and Walter Scott. He was upset then, but he says that the GMA promised it wouldn’t happen again. So now that it has, Franklin is boycotting all events affiliated with the Dove Awards, the GMA, and TBN “until tangible plans are put in place to protect diversity.” He adds that he wants the people in charge to know “not only did they edit my speech, they edited the African American experience.” His statement is honestly quite stirring, and you can watch it here.
As Billboard reports, GMA president Jackie Patillo has issued a statement in apology to Franklin, claiming that the GMA had to edit the show down to fit a two-hour broadcast window:
We accept the responsibility of our error. Although completely unintentional, we understand it caused great harm and deeply wounded many in the African American and Gospel community. As well, it left a general perception that we are not concerned with key social issues that affect people of color. It is not our intent to disregard or silence any of our artists, and we are deeply saddened by this perception and are committed to change this.
You can read Patillo’s full statement here.