Aretha Franklin's niece opens up about her aunt

DETROIT - To the world she was the Queen of Soul. To Cristal Franklin, she was so much more.

“I saw her as my aunt. The one who cooked dinner for my roommate from college when I came home.  The one who bought the best gifts on earth for Christmas and birthdays,” Franklin said.

Franklin says she visited her aunt in the days before she died, hoping for a miracle, but knowing her time would likely be short  She got word she had passed as she left town.

“We were taking my daughter to college when we got the news. I made it on the plane. When the door closed, I lost it,” said Cristal.

She drove by the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History the night before the public visitation and saw already overwhelming crowds. In her grief, she decided to take food to those first in line and learn about what her aunt meant to them.

Cristal, a clothing designer, known as CFranks, decided to make a shirt that listed he aunt's accomplishments.

“I want people to know she was more than a singer,” Franklin said. “She was a civil rights activist.”

“I want people to listen to the old songs and play them for their children," she said.

She shared memories of her aunt helping students pay for college, seeing families lose their belongings in a fire and responding, helping activists get out of prison, and paying for funerals of those in need.

“It is overwhelming because she is our aunt,” Franklin said.

Cristal is hoping people learn about her aunt through her creation. You can find it here.

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