Kirk Franklin was dubbed by Variety magazine as the “Reining King Of Urban Gospel.” In 2021, Franklin was one of the inaugural inductees of the Black Music & Entertainment Walk Of Fame, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Some sources have Franklin pegged as the best-selling Gospel artist of all time, with over 13 million album sales (link). Franklin’s talent, charisma, and success go without saying. Franklin, for his part, has made no secret of his humble beginnings, the trauma he lived through at a young age, and many of his struggles as a human being.
Today, I’ve transcribed two interviews that Franklin did with Sway, one 8 years ago and one just before the pandemic. I included the older interview because in it Franklin shares a lot of background info about his life that helps contextualize his testimony. Franklin talks about being adopted by an older, spiritual woman named Gertrude. Gertrude’s example inspired Franklin to take up an interest in the Christian faith, and he would talk to God on the rooftop starting at age 7.
Despite being raised by an “angel,” Franklin struggled with feelings of rejection and abandonment–particularly from his mother, whom he overheard saying that she had wanted to abort him. Franklin became hooked on pornography beginning at age 8. He describes his sexual lifestyle as a young man as “promiscuous” and “out of control.” Today, Franklin credits God’s grace and his wife, Tammy Collins, for “saving his life.”
These were choices of my own that I wanted to start sharing. It wasn’t like I got busted somewhere coming out of some strip club, or somebody caught some junk on my computer. . . I learned early on my faith that I healed as I revealed. . . And I think a lot—especially as black men. We’re not programmed to want to throw it out there. Black men will die broken before they go get some healing.Kirk Franklin
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.Proverbs 28:13
For more, check out Porn Addiction Vs Other Types of Addiction (Porn Reboot). For the complete archive of articles, click here.
Transcript #1: (May 30, 2013)
Sway: I think that’s important because you look at people who are in church, and you think everybody is, you know, pure and without flaw, without sin. . . I was taught to strive for divinity, but along the path you might go astray. I remember reading something—and tell me if it’s incorrect—I remember reading something you said in an article you had an addiction to porn.
Franklin: Yes—Not only that. There was some incest in our family when I was a kid. There was some abusive stuff that kind of happened in our family as a little boy. My little sister, you know—there was some rape and some things that happened in our family. There was some ugly images that we got introduced to as kids.
I remember about the age of 8. So from the age of 8 to about the age of 29, you know, I struggled with that—not only pornography, but also being very promiscuous. I got into a lot of trouble. At 15, [I] paid for an abortion. I got into a lot of trouble as a kid, and a lot of it was trying to find that missed love. . .
I would go to counseling and everything, when I was in my early 20s, trying to find that love that I missed from my mom, because I still know my mom. I think it’s worse when a kid is adopted and they still know their parents, versus when a kid is adopted and they don’t know their biological [parents]. Because it’s almost like a sore that never heals. You’re always living with, “Why wasn’t I good enough for you?” And it just affected me more than it did somebody else, because I would see my real mother every now and then. She would lie and say she would come get me to take me to the fair, to the carnival.
I’ll never forget one day, me and my sister got all dressed up because she said she’d come get us. And man, we sat on the corner of the street and counted every car that drove because we were looking for her Monte Carlo, and every car that came by that was looking close, we thought it was mom, and she never showed up and took us to that carnival.
My sexual lifestyle as a young man was really out of control. And I was just trying to find—just trying to grab on to something that looked like something. . . Just being very promiscuous. Just living out of control, and just trying to find that love relationship, and just messing up a lot. And so I’m really grateful for God’s grace and for my wifey.
You know, my wife saved my life, man. She’s a soldier. She’s a beautiful woman. She’s a powerful woman. And she didn’t take no junk from me. She was like, “Look, I know what you got going on in your life. If me and you are going to be forever, you need to clean all of that up” . . .
It’s unfortunate that so many young men have to continue that cycle of hurting our sisters because we don’t have other men to let us know that “Listen, when you lay with a woman, you don’t just lay with her. You lay with her spirit.” And you create soul ties all over the place.
A lot of dudes think—you meet dudes, you wonder why they’re crazy. They’re crazy because they run into a whole bunch of crazy people. You look at a lot of women, you see that they’re crazy, because they laid [sic] down with a bunch of crazy dudes–because when you lay down with a person, you also lay down with their essence. . .
Transcript #2: (May 31, 2019)
Franklin: Man, well, you know I was adopted when I was 4, by a 64 year-old woman. And I was abandoned by my biological mother and father. As a matter of fact, when I was 12 or 13, I overheard my biological mother tell this lady, because I was getting older, because the beautiful lady that adopted me was trying to get some help, and she was on a fixed income. She was trying to get some help with me.
And I overheard my biological mother–because the cribs back in the day didn’t’ have doors. Maybe like a blanket in between the bedrooms. And I overheard her say, “I didn’t even want him, because I wanted an abortion, but you wouldn’t even let me, and now you want me to help you? Now you want me to help you with him? But I didn’t even want him. .”
I think living in that tension of not having anyone wanting me, something really connected watching Gertrude, because the lady who adopted me [was named] Gertrude. . . She modeled it though, Sway. She’d be at the crib busting subs or making preserves or making homemade ice-cream. You don’t remember about the preserves? And she’d be just singing hymns and going to church—like she really modeled it. It was something about that that made me want to start seeking it.
What was really really dope about me and like God first connected is I started really climbing on top of the roof and like talking to him at night. I would always climb the roof. . . every night, and we would just chop. As a little boy. As a young-in. . .
Sway: In interviews you’ve done with us and other interviews, you talk a lot of flaws you have as a person—or challenges. I’ll say challenges you’re going through as an individual—the porn addiction. That was something that you talked about early on. Now we’re seeing a whole lot of people coming to the surface and talking about their addictions. What made you decide—you didn’t have to reveal these things—you made you decide to do that?
Franklin: You’re really right. These were choices of my own that I wanted to start sharing. It wasn’t like I got busted somewhere coming out of some strip club, or somebody caught some junk on my computer. The funny thing when I was back in that game back then, it wasn’t even on computers. It was magazines. You got an uncle—you got that nasty uncle. You know what I’m saying? You find them joints up under his bed, with the secret box full of weed and paper and all that. . .
I learned early on my faith that I healed as I revealed.
Sway: I healed as I revealed.
Franklin: Even when you go to the doctor. Even the doctor with all his training, as soon as you walk through the door, the first thing he asks you is “Tell me what hurts.” So you got to participate in your own recovery. He’s not just going to start throwing pills at you. You got to tell him where it hurts. So you got to participate.
And I think a lot—especially as black men. We’re not programmed to want to throw it out there. Black men will die broken before they go get some healing.