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Check Out Terrence Franklin’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Terrence Franklin.

Hi Terrence, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?

I went looking for my ancestors and ended up finding myself.

After decades as a trust and estates litigation attorney, defending and making challenges to wills, I discovered that there was a will contest in 1846 in my own family. My fourth great-grandfather, John, was a white farmer in Florida who owned my fourth great-grandmother, Lucy. But he set her free, along with their eight children and six grandchildren, in a will he did in 1846. On his death, Lucy had to lead her family from slavery in Florida to freedom in Illinois. But John’s brother, Shadrack, who had always threatened to abuse the family if he ever came to own them, challenged the will in court to try to keep them all enslaved.

Discovering these facts, beginning in 2014, helped me discover that my life mission is to “Bend the Arc of History Towards Justice” by sharing the story of Lucy and our family, and other stories like it, as widely as I possibly can. I want people to be inspired by an awareness of our ancestors to claim legacies from the past and to create new legacies for future generations.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

As a Black, gay man, I have had to negotiate the ways that aspects of my identity affect how others view me – the ways that bias keeps others from seeing me as a whole person. But by engaging in activities and organizations that support and promote inclusion, equity, diversity, and appreciation for the dignity of all human beings, I am working to help create a more just and equitable world.

As a member of the Board of Directors of leading LGBTQI arts organization Outfest, I work to expand platforms for queer storytellers.

As the past Chair of the Diversity Equity and Inclusivity Committee of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, ACTEC, I worked and continue to work on initiatives to encourage Black people and other people of color to pursue careers in trusts and estates and to use estate planning to push back against the racial wealth inequality gap, including by hosting a video series, “Planning for a Diverse and Equitable Future” at ACTEC.org/diversity.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?

A few years ago, I heard of the Japanese concept of “Ikigai” or one’s life purpose. It represents the intersection of what we love, what we do well, what the world needs, and what we can get paid for.

I maintain my very busy law practice in the trust and estate litigation firm I co-founded twenty years ago, Sacks, Glazier, Franklin & Lodise, LLP. But I have come to understand that my law practice is only a part of my purpose. Equally important aspects of that purpose are the creative projects I am working on, individually and with collaborators that drive the mission of telling my ancestors’ stories as widely as I can.

I share the stories of my ancestors in lectures across the country to lawyer groups and historical societies and in storytelling events live and on zoom. I am working with collaborators (my husband Jeffrey Moline and co-writer John Meeks) to develop “The Last Will of Lucy Sutton” a limited series for television that tells the story of Lucy’s struggle to get her family to freedom and how she risks her life and freedom to go back south to save her daughter. I have created a podcast that tells the Lucy story and am working on a memoir that tracks my journey of discovery, as well as a novel based on Lucy’s odyssey. A school curriculum that encourages students to develop a sense of mission and critical thinking skills, a documentary “Looking for Lucy” where my husband Jeffrey and I follow Lucy’s family’s path across the US are also part of the “Lucy Project” an integrated suite of entertaining, educational and diverse intellectual properties, positioned across multiple platforms and formats, all mission-driven and mission-designed to Bend the Arc of History Towards Justice.

I’m currently excited about our musical collaboration with the Oakland Symphony Chorus, “The Lucy Sutton Suite: A Truth-Telling in Four Parts” that will be part of the Chorus’ Mass for Freedom Concert and Tour. This musical exploration is an invitation to be inspired by our ancestors to claim past legacies and create new ones.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?

I practice Nichiren Buddhism. An essential aspect of that practice is to appreciate the value of all life and to look for ways to create value from every relationship. There’s so much to like and to love in this world of ours, despite all the challenges we face. Everywhere around us, there are opportunities to see and appreciate beauty. What don’t I like? I don’t like it when people try to deny the humanity of others. And I am determined to challenge inhumanity when I see it.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Jeffrey George Moline

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