NEWARK, New Jersey — With her music, Whitney Houston brought joy to the lives of her family, friends and fans, so it is only right that exactly one week after her death, on the day of her funeral, all the love Whitney gave is given right back.
Fans lined the streets of Newark, New Jersey, in hopes of getting as close as they could to the New Hope Baptist Church, where the funeral for Houston, who was found dead in a Beverly Hills hotel on February 11, is being held. It is the same church the pop diva grew up attending and where she built a loving fanbase even as a youngster with her powerful church choir vocals.
“Everybody, I want them to know that God sent us an angel, and now his angel has gone back home to rest and sing in heaven,” Patricia Copeland Williams, a Houston family friend, told MTV News on Friday upon leaving the pop star’s wake at New Hope Baptist. “We will always love her and we’ll always remember, and we’re never going to forgot Cissy, the woman that birthed her.”
The Houston funeral is a private affair and only invited guests are allowed into the church and the surrounding city blocks. Before the ceremony, fans gathered outside of police barricades on the corner of Orange and Nesbitt streets, about four blocks from the church, singing Houston’s hits including “Greatest Love of All” and “I Will Always Love You.” Media outlets lined the block on the corner of Lock Street and Essex Avenue, but without an invite, that was about as close as anybody would get.
Musical luminaries and close friends Clive Davis, Stevie Wonder and CeCe Winans are all expected to attend. Kevin Costner, who starred with Houston in the 1992 hit film “The Bodyguard” and ex-husband Bobby Brown are also among the expected attendees.
Aretha Franklin, who is Whitney’s close family friend, had been scheduled to sing “I Will Always Love You” at the service but canceled due to illness, according to CNN. Franklin performed in Whitney’s honor Friday night at Radio City Music Hall.
Stay with MTVNews.com all day Saturday for continuing coverage of Whitney Houston’s funeral services.