Courtesy of Clutch Magazine
I recall watching Whitney Houston’s funeral on CNN and cringing as anchor Don Lemon described and contextualized every aspect of her homegoing service. The icon’s funeral was familiar for many black Americans. Outside of the celebrity presence, it didn’t differ much from other funerals I’ve attended at Baptist churches. But Houston’s homegoing was a unique experience for the general American public as evidenced by Lemon’s commentary.
Filmmaker Christine Turner dissected African-American funeral traditions in her debut feature documentary “Homegoings.” The film “explores the African-American funeral home, a 150 year-old institution that is now vanishing” according to a press release. It is “told through the eyes of a Harlem funeral director, Isaiah Owens, and the families he serves.”
Turner was inspired to create the film after the death of two close relatives with different cultural traditions.
“When I was 13, both of my grandmothers passed away within two weeks of one another,” she said. “My mom’s mother, who was Chinese-American, happened to be Methodist and was cremated, which was very atypical for traditional Chinese funerals. My father’s mother, who was African-American and Catholic, had an open-casket funeral—the first I had ever attended, leaving an indelible impression on me.”