We had the good fortune of connecting with Terrence Franklin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Terrence, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
The fact is, my artistic career is still in the process of choosing me. I was in my late forties, with a successful career as a trusts and estates litigation lawyer for nearly twenty-five years when I made a discovery that changed my life. I found the last will and testament from 1846 that my white fourth great-grandfather made that set free from slavery my fourth great-grandmother and their eight children and six grandchildren. Fortunately, at around this same time, the man who would become my husband, Jeffrey Moline, was introducing me to Nichiren Buddhism. By chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, and leaning into my curiosity about that will and its meaning, I heard the voices of my ancestors, and reconnected with long suppressed childhood dreams of being an artist, that I had put aside, hiding from accepting my sexuality, and focusing on developing my legal career and raising a family. While I still have a thriving law practice, I am also hard at work on creative projects that include a novel, a limited series for television, a documentary series, a school curriculum, and storytelling and performance with Turbine Arts Collective. I have figured out that my mission in life is to tell stories that “Bend the Arc of History Towards Justice”, and that part of my journey is just getting underway! Even though I wasn’t practicing Buddhism as my legal career was developing, once I started the practice, I began to appreciate my own value, and to really develop my human potential.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art springs from my mission to tell stories that Bend The Arc of History Towards Justice. When I started on the journey of uncovering my family’s history, I thought that history was what happened to famous people, like kings and queens, princes and pontiffs, or to ordinary people who did something extraordinary, like Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Rosa Parks, or Bryan Stevenson. But the process of excavating the facts and discerning the truths that the facts reveal, helped me understand that history is what we’re living every day. It shapes us and changes us. But — we have the ability to shape and change history too. By our determination, our words and our actions. So while I stand on the arc of history with my ancestors who did something — created a will, that bent the arc of history towards freedom for my family, my descendants well into the future are at the other end of the arc of history. They’re looking back, calling me to account, for what I am doing to bend that arc towards freedom and justice. By sharing my story and other stories of America’s racial history and the lessons we can learn from those stories, I am helping bend that arc just a little bit more.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is a tough question in a pandemic, when I’m not even certain that restaurants and hangouts that have been institutions will even survive. But, here’s fun cultural stuff that’s likely to survive. One of the things that’s hard for visitors to Los Angeles to understand is that the “idea” of LA, whether you’re talking about just the city limits, or the County of Los Angeles, which includes unincorporated areas outside of the city, or the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, is an enormous geographical swath. The public transportation system, such as it is, is skeletal, and works well in limited ways, but fails much of the region, in other ways. Most people who are happy living in Los Angeles have figured out that there are patchworks of communities. People will spend most of their time in one or two areas and hardly ever visit the others. And when they do visit other communities, a little bit of planning may be required. A single visitor can have a very different experience depending on which part of the city they are taken to visit in any given day, or week or month. I spend most of my time in downtown Los Angeles, where I have worked consistently for almost thirty years, and in the Hollywood/West Hollywood area, so I’ll focus on some highlights in those parts of town, especially some of the highlights have architectural aspects, sure to survive the pandemic. The downtown Bunker Hill area is where I would start. It’s a great location from which to walk north to the Music Center complex which includes three distinct venues, each with its own unique character — the Ahmanson Theatre hosting large scale theatrical performances, the intimate Mark Taper Forum, and the elegant home of the Los Angeles Opera, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. North and east of the Music Center is the Ramon Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, the Los Angeles Cathedral, and south of there, Grand Park, a terraced green space bounded by civic center buildings, providing a majestic view of Los Angeles City Hall, which for many years was the highest a building in Los Angeles could be built. South of the Los Angeles Music Center Complex and across First Street is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, non-summer home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and a variety of concert performances in Frank Gehry’s uniquely free-flowing structure built to exacting acoustical standards. I recommend an architectural tour that includes Disney Hall for fascinating insights about its design, materials, and its place in Los Angeles and world architectural history. East across the Grand Avenue from the Disney Concert Hall rises the new Frank Gehry “The Grand” slated as a residential, retail, cinema and hotel complex. South from there on the West side of the street is the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, and across the street from there is the Colburn School of Performing Arts and MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art. Going further south is the Los Angeles downtown banking center, anchored by the Wells Fargo Center, leading to the US Bank Tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi. I’d take a visitor to cultural enclaves around Los Angeles, from the Plaza de la Raza in East LA, to Leimert Park in South LA, back up to mid-Wilshire, home of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the La Brea Tarpits, and the Peterson Automotive Museum, out west to see the Pacific Ocean, then up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu for the Getty Villa, with its remarkable collection of classical antiquities, then back to the Getty Museum complex off the 405 Freeway, and finally to Hollywood for Hollywood and Highland retail and entertainment venue with a view of the iconic Hollywood sign. Until the pandemic is over, I’ll hold off identifying any specific restaurants among the limitless number of amazing places to eat all around the city, from elegant table cloth restaurants to local stands offering fusion street food.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have gotten so much support from so many people my whole life, from the people you’d expect, like parents, wife (now former but still supportive), inspirational husband Jeffrey and our third writing partner in MoMeFra Productions, John Meeks. But I am also greatly inspired daily by so many creative people who are younger than I am, who are all part of my biological and chosen families, who live their lives boldly, with determination, refusing to accept limitations that the world tries to place on them. So, my shoutout goes to our daughters Hayleigh Hart Franklin and Hannah Hart Franklin, our gaysons met through working with amazing LGBTQI arts organization breakout filmmakers Elegance Giiavoni Bratton and his husband Chester Algernal Gordon, our breakout filmmaker “nephew” Jovan James, my creative genius “brother” Nathan Hale Williams who also went to my Chicago High School, Whitney Young Magnet, (albeit quite a few years after I did), fellow SGI “sister” Angelica Ross, on the vanguard of the struggle for trans rights, and young friend Bowie McFadden, who is making up their own rules.
Website: http://lucysutton1770.blogspot.com/; www.trustlitigation.la
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/terry.franklin2; https://www.facebook.com/TheLastWillofLucySutton/
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