DeVon Franklin, His Mom & Aunts Share Why “It Takes A Woman”

There’s an African proverb that says “It takes a village to raise a child.” Hollywood producer and bestselling author DeVon Franklin offers a personal twist: ‘It Takes a Woman.’ In this riveting and soul-stirring Audible Original, Franklin introduces us to the women who raised him—a “village of love” that selflessly came together to shape him into the man he is today.

For the first time publicly, Franklin and his family discuss the aftermath of his father’s untimely death and the despair that could have destroyed their future. It Takes a Woman offers listeners an emotional journey of tragedy, triumph, and healing as Franklin, his mother, and his five living great-aunts recall how the women heeded the call to help raise him and his two brothers. The candid conversation uncovers old wounds that are still fresh and pain that is still piercing, as well as a family bond that is unbreakable.

Narrated by DeVon Franklin, his mom Paulette Franklin (69) and his Aunt Nuna (96), Aunt Ida (86), Aunt Enis, Aunt Donna (78), and Aunt Sondra (76), you hear the stories straight from them. Risen sat down with Franklin, his mom and his Aunt Ida for a meaningful conversation.

Interviewed for Risen Magazine

Risen Magazine: Thank you all for joining me. I love having family conversations because it’s just so rich and you get a chance to feel flavor from every aspect of the family. I’m a mom, myself, so I loved hearing from Paulette’s side. I can always use as much help as possible so, it’s fantastic to hear from all the aunts. And DeVon, it’s always great talking to you.

So, let’s start with you. I love this idea that you talk about the points of, the pain of your upbringing also led to so much of your current success. And a lot of that had to do with the women in the village that was around you. Talk a little bit about that and why you felt it was important to share that information with us.

DeVon Franklin: Audible had approached me about doing an audio book. And they were like, “We saw an article that you wrote for Maria Shriver, Sunday paper, called ‘The Coalition of Women,’ about the women in your family. Would you want to turn that into an audio book?” And I thought about it. And I said, “Yeah, I think that would be amazing to be able to have the opportunity to not only share my story, but share my family’s story.”

And then, I went to my mom and my great aunts and said, “Would you all like to do it?” And they were completely on board. So, it was a very organic process to get us to this place where we were able to produce and record this audio book called, “It Takes a Woman.” And to me, it’s a high honor to be able to do a project with my mom and my five great aunts and for the world to hear their voices. So, it was very organic and I’m just grateful that we, as a family, could do this together.

RM: I loved the choice that we would actually hear from your aunts and your mother. It wasn’t just you, allowing us to know what their words were. So, I’m curious, Paulette, Aunt Ida, your son, your great nephew, comes to you and says, “Hey, I’m thinking of talking all about our family and our upbringing.” Were you immediately on board? What hesitations did you have? Because I love that it’s so raw and it’s emotional. And like I mentioned, you are the ones actually telling your story. So, what did that look like for each of you?

Aunt Ida: Well, initially when he first approached us with it, I think all of us kind of said, “Yeah, that sounds like fun.” But, we had no idea exactly what it was going to be like, and how DeVon was going to have us tell our truth, so to speak. So initially, I thought, I don’t know. But, I love it now. I’ve listened to it several times. And it is, it’s great.

Paulette Franklin: When he came to me, of course, I said, “Okay, yes, no problem. Anything for you, son.” But, like Aunt Ida has said, who knew what it was going to turn out to be and how it turned out to be, and the importance of the things that we learned from one another, and the healing that came from it. So, we had no idea those things would happen. But, I was on board when he asked us to do it.

RM: So we’re talking about this tragedy that happened with the death of DeVon, your father, when you were a child. But, the story started long before that. I mean, there was a lot going on that even led up to you being able to process that point of your father’s death. And then, the village was already activated before… Talk a little bit about what that’s looked like.

DF: Yeah. I mean, the beautiful thing about the book. As the listener hears each chapter, our family story just continues to unfold. And so yes, while the book starts pretty much with me talking about the death of my father and being in the morgue in that moment, we then go back. And there’s a whole chapter on, how did we even get here? And I talk about my mother being raised with my great aunts for the first 12 years of her life.

And then, we go back further than that. My great grandfather, Percival Phillips, immigrating from Jamaica, and what he experienced when he got to California. So, this book is really a rich family story. And I think it shows the resilience of a family that prays, that has God in their life.

There’s so many tragedies that we’ve had to endure, and the listener gets a chance to hear that. But, you also hear the triumph. You also hear the resilience. You also hear the hope. And I think that was also one of the reasons we wanted to share the story. Because there’s so many families that are going through things.

Someone listening may not have a village by blood, like I do. But, by doing this book, the fact we’ll become that person’s village, too. So, there was a lot of hope that has carried us from where we started to where we are now. And we really wanted to extend that hope through doing this book.

RM: One of the things that stood out to me, Paulette, within your story, was sacrifice. I felt like that’s just all over your story, the sacrifices that you have to make for your boys, the sacrifices that you had to make in some of the relationship with your own mom and family. And then, the sacrifices in the willingness to ask for help. Maybe talk about a mother’s sacrifice and how you’ve seen that play out.

PF: Well, before you become a mom, you have no idea. You have no idea what is in store for you. But, having my three sons, I knew I wanted them to have the best. And I wanted to do the best that I could. So, whatever I had to sacrifice. Sometimes borrowing clothes from my aunt to wear, so that they would make sure they had enough to eat, or a place to live. Whatever I had to do. I didn’t want to fail them because their father had died. And so, I wanted to do the best that I could. And I know I didn’t, but I tried my best to give them what I felt they needed. And to sacrifice those things that I didn’t really need, so that they could have a better life.

RM: One thing I loved hearing about your story, Aunt Ida, was that not everybody gets the blessing of getting to see what they’ve sewn and how it’s been reaped. But, I felt like that’s been a joy that you’ve been able to have in your life. I mean, you had such an interesting upbringing and navigating that, going to Bakersfield and coming back up, and being able to honor your father’s dying wish and see your family all loving the Lord. I mean, these are things that you hope for, but you may never see in this world. So, for you to get to see that and the work that was put into it, will you just share a little bit about that?

AI: Sure. Well, when we moved back from Bakersfield, as I said in the book, my husband said, “It wasn’t a matter of if he was going to preach, but where.” And of course, Paulette and her boys joined up with us as soon as we got everything started. And Devon has always been very active in church, from a little boy. I mean, he would go around and pick up bulletins that were left on the seats in the church and things like that.

And with our potluck dinners, to this day, DeVon, if we have a potluck dinner and people left plates on the table, he’ll go around and pick them up. He’s been like that. But, I think when we discovered that DeVon had talent, in addition to the place he was in high school was, when he was asked to preach on our very first Youth Day. And I think he was 13. Were you 13?

DF: I was 15.

AI: Okay, he was 15. And he did such an outstanding job that we thought, okay, this is the next preacher for Wings of Love. But, he wasn’t having it. But, he did a fantastic job. And from then on, it’s just been upward and onward.

RM: DeVon, while Aunt Ida’s saying that you have this preaching gift, I love that you also chose to take that gift into media, which is so well-needed. I mean, we need it in all aspects of our life, but especially, I feel like in film and television. And you’ve been able to navigate it so well. The Star is our all-time favorite Christmas movie now, ever since you and I talked as it came out. And I told my kids that I would ask you during this interview for another amazing animated film.

DF: I’m working on it.Yeah, I have a great one. I can’t say it yet. But yes, I have a new one that I’m working on.

RM: Okay, good. So I can report back about that. They will be very happy. And then, just all the other content that you provided from the films that we’ve seen, and then now, you even have a brand new show, talk to me about Kingdom Business.

DF: Yeah. I really just have always, from a young age, as Aunt Ida was referencing. As much as I was passionate about ministry, I was also passionate about Hollywood and entertainment. And I always was clear that Hollywood/entertainment is probably one of the most powerful mediums in the world, if not the most powerful. Maybe even next to sports, I think, depending on how you look at it on any given day.

And so, my intent was always to come to this industry and to do my best to use this industry as a force of good. So many people look to Hollywood, whether they should or shouldn’t, for hope, for guidance, for instruction, for cues on how to live, what to do, what to hope for. And so for me, I felt like, well, if this is what’s driving the culture, how can I be a positive force in this and potentially help the culture in a positive way?

And so, that’s where all this content comes from. And I’m excited about my new show, Kingdom Business. It’s on BET+, it’s streaming now. It’s eight episodes of a one hour drama, very much like Nashville, set in the world of Gospel music. And I’m very excited about it. So far, people who have been streaming it all around the world are loving it, and they’re letting us know they want a season two. So, we’ll see how that goes. But, it’s really a blessing to be able to bring that to the world.

RM: I couldn’t agree with you more. Especially now, who could have ever predicted what now would look like, with global pandemics and cultural wars, and churches polarized. It’s just such an interesting time. And I feel that there is an importance and need for voices to rise up. And I’m thankful, DeVon, that you’re doing that, and that we’re able to hear from your family, as well.

And I think it brings a very interesting point of this idea that life may not look like we had hoped. It may not look like we prayed for. We might have prayed fervently for something in the completely different direction, but God knows best. And He always is going to work it together for His good. So maybe if each of you could just share a little bit on that note, as just a reminder, and impart your wisdom on how life might not be exactly how each of you have planned. Yet, here we are today and we’re able to impact so many others.

AI: I made this promise. I didn’t want to, but we knew he was passing away, and I wanted to honor his last wish. So I said, “Yes.” But, in my heart of hearts, I thought, impossible. But, the way everything turned out, and as you were saying earlier, I mean the hope. I hope that one day something will happen, but I had never, in my wildest dreams, expected it to happen the way that it did.

And I’m so thankful for Wings of Love, and how that came about. And also, that Paulette was, I mean, she was insistent. Even if she didn’t come that particular Sabbath, she had the boys there, she’d drop them off. And they were at church. And I’m so glad that they… I think that has certainly had a bearing on all of their lives. And they’re just wonderful, great nephews. Love them.

PF: I don’t think we could have made it without God. We had the family, we had the village, we had a lot of things. People coming to help. But without God, we wouldn’t have gotten there. I know on Friday evenings, DeVon doesn’t quite remember this, but we used to open the Sabbath. We would all get together, the four of us, and pray and sing, and they would act up so much. They would laugh and talk all during our prayer. And I’d look at them and they’d look at me. And anyway, so we’ve always had God in our life. And without Him, we couldn’t be where we are today. And I’m very thankful to have such wonderful children.

DF: One of the reasons why I wanted to do the book is to show that sometimes the things that you think are the worst, ultimately prove to be the best. We go back to Aunt Ida’s story, and what happened with the genesis of Wings of Love. And at the time, the circumstances seemed like it was the worst, but ultimately turned out to be the best. And so, I would say to anyone, any family, any person going through something. In your worst moment, it is a seed for your best moment.

RM: I love just the constant reminder to have empathy and grace with people. And you never know what is going on in somebody else’s life, and the importance of just kindness. And I feel that your Audible book allows us to be able to have that because you go to so many different areas that some families talk about and some families don’t talk about. And so, I think that it’s important and thankful for you guys to be vulnerable, to allow us into that, as well. So, thank you guys so much for taking the time. Thank you for being here and chatting with us today, and having a family round table.

Available now on Audible: It Takes a Woman and Franklin’s new scripted series, “Kingdom Business,” is on BET.

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