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Kirk Franklin fights the fight

The gospel luminary weighs in on porn, sex, Katrina and crossing over
/ Source: The Associated Press

A martyr. The “Earth Wind and Fire” of gospel music. A man set free from an addiction to pornography.

Kirk Franklin, whosegroundbreakingg fusion of hip-hop and gospel has galvanized youth and brought chart-topping crossover success, defines himself in many ways. But one title he doesn’t like is “celebrity.”

On the verge of launching his “Hero” tour with Mary Mary and Yolanda Adams (a followup to his album of the same name) Franklin sat down with AP to answer a few questions and once again challenge the entertainment industry.

AP: Why did you choose to make your past struggles with pornography public?

Franklin: When I was working on this ‘Hero’ album, there’s a song on there called ‘Let It Go’ and I’m telling my story, and of course that is part of my story and so I did it in the song. And when the Oprah people contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in coming on the show and talking about what I’ve gone through with it, talking to my wife and talking to my pastor, they thought it was a good idea.

AP: What kind of backlash have you experienced?

Franklin: I had a friend in Atlanta call me and he said, Boy, you got ’em coming out the woodworks like roaches now. He said, You’re messing with men’s ’golf.’ Because that’s a lot of men’s pastime. ... So, a lot of guys, a lot of people maybe got mad at me because I poured light on their secret, their little secret issue. Somebody’s got to be a martyr, and I think that that’s what a lot of people don’t realize is that doing gospel music and talking about Jesus was never really intended to make us celebrities.

AP: So what issue would you like to challenge everyone about next?

Franklin: It’s the whole thing about sex and booties and cars, and at some point we have to realize that there’s going to beaftereffectss of that. If we feed a generation that type of message, we’re going to have a very unhealthy generation of kids that are not going to be good for anything.

AP: What about gospel music’s response to Hurricane Katrina — it doesn’t seem too evident.

Franklin: The gospel community does a billion things when things go down. We just don’t have the platform. When Harry Connick Jr. does something or Beyonce does something, the press is going to come out to it. We did a thing (for Katrina evacuees) in Dallas, Texas, at the Potter’s House, over 14-15,000 people showed up. ... We raised — what was it, like $150,000 that night. It went straight to the people. We didn’t have no press there. Really, we had nobody there. We had people from the gospel press. That’s so sad. Don’t nobody come.

AP: That seems strange since gospel is crossing over so well.

Franklin: My question is, though, is it really crossing over? Or do you just have gospel artists that every now and then get urban play. I think that when hip-hop became ’pop,’ not just Run-DMC became pop — LL Cool J became pop, Salt ’n’ Pepa became pop, The Fugees became pop, the whole movement became pop. You just didn’t have a couple of people that was just kind of hittin’ and getting some urban radio. You had a whole movement.

AP: Should crossing over even be the goal?

Franklin: I don’t think it should be the goal. But I don’t see that happening, because we have something ugly connected to it. The cross is ugly, man. The cross is ugly.

AP: What do you do, spiritually, to get ready for a tour? Are you on a 40-day fast or something?

Franklin: I don’t like all that kind of stuff, the ritual stuff. I like for whatever I do to just be part of my lifestyle. I want God to be how I get up in the morning and wash my face. Or how I don’t have to look down and say I’m going to make my right foot step in front of my left foot as I walk. Just natural, just flows like water. That’s what it’s supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be religious. It’s not supposed to be ritualistic, it’s supposed to be relational.

AP: What do you see as the future of the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community in the black church? Do you think one day they’ll all be expelled, or converted, will it be a constant divisive force?

Franklin: I think that you have to be, as scripture would say, ‘as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove.’ To lovingly share the truth, to lovingly and to passionately speak the truth in love into the lives of all people and to allow that message that you speak, to trust that it has enough power to do the changing.

AP: What’s the take-home message from the ‘Hero’ tour?

Franklin: Even in 2006, the gospel is still reliable, is still credible. ... It’s like yes, as a people we needed it in the ’60s, we needed it in the ’50s, because there was nothing else to pull from, but that’s just such a lie. ... God is still real. These lights, cameras and this dancing and this production is put together by people who are people of faith. This ain’t a Kanye concert but it’s just as crunk, it’s just as crunk as a Lil’ Jon concert. And we’re also presenting something that has eternal value, instead of just a good time.