Kirk Franklin’s book, The Blueprint
By Janet Alston Jackson
Talking with Kirk Franklin, you can’t help but to be swept up in his passion and enthusiasm for life. The energy of his rapid-fire speech pattern surges through your body, and makes any listener pay deep attention.
This same infectious energy infuses his gospel music with hip-hop and pop beats, which has made Franklin a seven-time Grammy award winner, and proven him to be a pioneer of gospel music as the first artist to sell more than a million units. And now, readers can be inspired through his new book, “The BluePrint: A Plan for Living Above Life’s Storms.”
“The Blueprint” was born of requests by Franklin’s fans who wanted more than his music. They were encouraged by his talks on overcoming setbacks and hearing him on the speaking circuit. Whether Franklin is talking to youth or to adults, the message is always the same: God has a blueprint for your life, and if you follow it, you can overcome any obstacle.
A warning should come with “The Blueprint.” “Not for the faint at heart,” because Franklin is brutally honest in sharing his feelings and beliefs. He pulls back the covers on today’s hot topics, including relationships, finances, plastic surgery, materialism, politics, celebrity, parenting and religion. However, his book is not empty rants, but filled with a purpose: exposing society’s worship of demi-gods while creatively pointing the way to live a successful life, despite any setbacks in the past.
Using his own life as an example, “The Blueprint” speaks especially to those who did not grow up with parents or mentors guiding them, and to anyone who has lost hope. Sharing from heart-to-heart, Franklin candidly writes of his flaws and his pain from the past. His father left when he was just a child and his mother admitted to him that she wished she had aborted him. Franklin was raised by his aunt, his temporary caregiver, who always put him down. He admits to not having role models and turning to drugs. The singer had a horrible time in school and became a father at age 15.
Franklin felt lost. Yet, he was able to turn his life around, find his way out of the fray, to become a successful gospel performer, a loving father of four, and a devoted husband of 14.
He is also the host and co-executive producer of the BET original series, “Sunday Best.”
In January 2010 he assembled numerous award-winning gospel music artists to lend their voices to “Are You Listening,” a song they hope will inspire those devastated by the Haiti earthquake, as well as raise funds.
In addition to Franklin’s seven Grammy Awards, he has won an American Music Award; 35 Stellar Awards; 12 Dove Awards (CCM); five NAACP Awards; two BET Music Awards and a Soul Train Award, among numerous other awards. Reaching young, urban audiences is a key component of Franklin’s vision and his mission with his company. “We’re seeking to creatively impact the world with faith-centered, innovative products and services,” says Franklin. “The Blueprint” is an example of his vision.
Sentinel: Reading “The Blueprint,” you can’t help thinking you have candidly written about character flaws in others, but especially your own. Most of us only speak about things like that in private. Many celebrities wouldn’t dare put their true feelings out there like you have, out of fear their careers would suffer. Why have you shared so much?
Franklin: I don’t come from a background of book writing, and I put all my heart and soul in the book to try to communicate and connect with people. That’s how God wired me. I’ve always run my mouth, even as a little boy. Talking a lot has been very therapeutic for me. As I talk, I heal and so that’s been something that has blessed my life.
It took me one year to write the book. It came organically from speaking. I didn’t have a co-writer, but I did have a great publisher and editor. I wrote for hours. It was one of the most painful things I have done in my life.
Sentinel: You have been writing your own music for years.
Franklin: But writing music, you can be driven by a beat, or a sound, and you can write to a sound and have a melody in your head. With the book, there was no beat or melody; it was just me, the hotel room and the quiet. I wanted to write something that people would want to read, and something that engages and takes people places.
Sentinel: You have definitely done that. Readers will find it, honest, fascinating, as well as inspirational. You speak about your experience growing up without role models, and what you have learned through your mistakes and those around you.
Franklin: Yes, there was no blueprint in my life, so I spent most of my life trying to find that identity. Trying to find who I was, and I failed a lot. So it’s my job to share what I learned so that the generation coming up under me is not going to have to make that same mistake over and over again.
I have experienced these things that I write about- Whether it’s about my marriage or my home. I also have a sister on crack, in and out of prison. I heard my mother say she didn’t want me. I had a father who did one thing in my life for me, and that was get me a haircut. I’m from a broken family.
I was raised in the church. And I know how we treated a choir director wrong who had feminine ways. We humiliated him and embarrassed him. And I have never seen a man faithful in his marriage growing up.
I want to take those lessons from my own experiences as a man who grew up with one foot in the church and one foot in the streets, and use that to connect with this generation.
Sentinel: So how did you develop the wisdom you share in the book in addition to leading a spiritual life? You seem very wise to be so young.
Franklin: Well I’m far from wise, and I’m probably still a fool myself, but what I have tried to do is surround myself with smart people. I have a friend who is 61-years-old with a Ph.D. and has been in theology all of his life, another friend who has Ph.D. in philosophy from Notre Dame; and a homeboy who just got out of prison and has three kids who don’t know him. I also have a homeboy who hangs out at the barbershops and smokes weed all day. So my community is full of all of these lessons. I would be a fool not to learn from the lessons, good or bad.
I got some of the smartest friends in academia, and I got friends who are the dumbest people on this planet who still make the same mistakes over and over again, and I try to learn from them all.
Sentinel: You speak a lot about God, but you say you are anti-religion.
Franklin: It’s not about religion, it’s about being accountable to God.
Sentinel: Your book doesn’t follow the traditional Christian inspirational book format.
Franklin: The biggest danger that I’ve always seen in Christian inspiration books is they sound Christian-nese. They feel Christian-nese. You know-never a cloud, never a dark day. “Oh trust Jesus, he is your buddy, he’s your pal, it will be OK.” No. What do you do when this man is hitting me upside my head? What do you do when your child is calling you for the third time from jail? What do you do after you get married and the fire is gone and you try to live God’s way, but God says “To death do us part,” but you are thinking, “I don’t want to stay with this Negro that long, because he gets on my nerves.” That’s real life, and that’s where the gospel comes into place.
Hopefully, what will happen with this book is that it will be such an easy comfortable read that people who have rejected the spiritual view, or are confused by it, or had their own issues, will see there is a watch, so there has be a watchmaker somewhere.
Sentinel: You write extensively about relationships, and parenting, while talking openly about your flaws. Why do you think relationships are such a hot topic?
Franklin: It’s a hot topic because for most people, it is not working. We are wired to want relationships, but we live in a society that fights against it. We see Hollywood couples getting married and then quickly breaking up.
Sentinel: What advice do you have for those who are dealing with financial challenges, and those who have lost their jobs?
Franklin: We were created for something bigger than a paycheck, or a 401k, or to sit on the front porch and sip mint juleps, and die watching the sunset.
We were created to affect life, to breathe purpose. No matter how much money you make, you still are not there yet. You are still not God.
And if I am fired from a Fortune 500 company, and I know my God is bigger than a CEO, then I still have hope.
My job is not my source. My job is just a resource. So if I lose my job, my life is not over, because my source will create for me another resource.
Sentinel: You speak bluntly about the dangers of materialism and following society’s values.
Franklin: Once again, society puts emphasis on those that have and those who don’t have, get left in the wind. So everybody wants to have, and the whole goal of life is having. So what I’m saying is, I can’t leave out God as the blueprint designer because if you don’t see your eyes through God’s eyes, the only other eyes to see is through society’s eyes. And society is built on the haves, and doesn’t pay attention to the have-nots.
So what God does, he evens the playing field. In heaven, Patricia the prostitute, and Ned the wino, are going to be right next to Billy Graham,
T.D. Jakes and Mother Teresa. See, that gives me hope.
Sentinel: You leave no stone unturned, including the church.
Franklin: If you are at a church, and it is obvious that the preacher’s lifestyle is not what he is preaching, then he has to be held accountable. Don’t just sit up under him because he’s your pastor or a bishop, just because you have been going to that church for a long time, and he came to visit your mama when she was in the hospital sick. No, he still must be held accountable for his lifestyle choices. He just can’t get a pass.
We have got to stop giving out the Black pass. We are not just going to give you a pass because you’re Black. I believe we still at times overlook what we know in our spirit to be right because someone of our skin color is saying it or doing it.
Sentinel: You are a self-effacing celebrity. I have heard that the church you attend, you pitch in to help with jobs needed to be done, no matter how small, including serving on the parking ministry. A lot of celebrities would not do that.
Franklin: I don’t see myself as a celebrity. A celebrity is a mind-set. I have met people who haven’t sold 50,000 albums, and they show up with shades and an entourage, and to them, they are a celebrity. It’s a mind-set I choose not to have. I don’t believe that God called me to be that. That’s not my job here. My job is to use whatever platform that I have been given for a deeper reason and purpose than to be a celebrity.
“The Blueprint” is Franklin’s latest platform, and he is using it to inspire and motivate others to make their own blueprints. It fills the void of not knowing which way to turn and arms you with the necessary tools to succeed.
Meet Kirk Franklin at Eso Won Bookstore, Friday, May 28, at 7 p.m., 4331 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles, California.
Janet Alston Jackson