‘Masters of the Game’: Kirk Franklin is working through spiritual pain

OPINION: In the latest episode, the gospel star shares his emotional journey of reconnecting with his biological father.

Kirk Franklin
Kirk Franklin performs during the Dove Awards on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

The Kirk Franklin episode of “Masters of the Game” was one of the most challenging interviews I’ve ever done for this show because the man I was talking to was in such deep spiritual turmoil. Usually on “Masters of the Game,” we go through a person’s entire life journey, but Franklin, the dominant figure in contemporary gospel music, is currently at a major crossroads. We couldn’t go through his whole life because there’s so much to unpack about his life right now. Do you know what Franklin has been going through? It’s a crazy moment in his life.

When Franklin was a baby, he was given up for adoption. His birth mother lived nearby and came to see him from time to time, so he always knew who she was but he never knew his father. A recent documentary about Franklin called “Father’s Day” covers how Franklin discovered who his father was. Apparently, there was a funeral that brought together some of the family and some folks in the town. At the funeral, a man noted that he had been with Franklin’s mother in the period before Franklin was born. One thing led to another and that man gave Franklin a bit of his DNA. Franklin had it tested. It showed that there was a 99% chance that this man was Franklin’s biological father. But one important person remained unconvinced.   

Franklin went to see his mother to discuss. At that point, he had not spoken to his mother in over two decades, but he had to break the silence because he had to know the truth. His mother said no, that man is not your father. Franklin was confused. He went to another doctor and got more tests. They came back 99% positive that this man was his father. He went back to his mother. Again, she said no. Franklin was crestfallen. He chose to believe the doctors and to work on somehow building some sort of relationship with this man. He also walked away from his mother feeling like she had let him down once again. He went back to not speaking to her.

But also, within all of the reuniting with his own father, Franklin realized that he would be a hypocrite if he did not get to work on his damaged relationship with his oldest son. So he did that. 

All of this is deeply emotional work. It’s important, it’s powerful, it’s also spiritually exhausting. So Franklin came to me with all of this swirling around inside of him, and he was so open about where he is that it felt like a therapy session. Usually on “Masters,” we focus on how someone learned to master their craft — for example, we talked to Tyler Perry about filmmaking and Doc Rivers about basketball — but in this episode, we’re really talking about Franklin as a master of healing himself. Because he’s working on repairing himself after several major life transitions happened all at once. He’s getting help from his church, his therapist and his wife, but making music remains a central way for him to heal himself. That said, Franklin told me that despite all the Grammys and all the musical success, he’s not that good a singer. Lord, there’s so much to unpack there. Don’t miss a very special episode of “Masters of the Game” with the legend Kirk Franklin. The episode premieres on TheGrio on Friday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m.

Touré, theGrio.com

Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.

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