Community: Part I; Be Radical! How a Will Helps Tell Your Story




• an account of past events in someone’s life or in the evolution of something. •


Did you know that writing a Will is a way to ‘tell your story’ and record your place in and among your community? Because a Will is recorded in public records when you pass, becoming a part of traceable history – a way of marking your time here – a Will doesn’t have to be limited to those owning things and having money and then passing those things or assets on to another family member. Here’s how writing a Will can help tell your story:

For women, ancestors of enslaved individuals, and other communities of color, having a Will can be a radical act.  For a large part of our country’s history we were, ourselves, another person’s property and we were, ourselves, kept from accessing the law to assert ourselves and our rights; including our right to own property or hold assets in our name. When looking back and tracing our heritage, African Americans and many women have to look to Wills to find a record of their families. The fact that we were property of others means that instead of hitting a dead end on our family tree because of this less-than-whole status under the law, we may find evidence of those that came before us in the Wills of those that listed us as property. Recognizing the reality of this time in our history is painful, and can also be empowering – connecting ourselves to our people helps to root us in our story; the tale of what came before.

When thinking about who and what may come after us, writing a Will can put context around your story of belonging to a particular time in history and a continuing line of family and friends.  There are many limitations on realizing full citizenship in society today – many of us feel disenfranchised from access to education, healthcare, opportunity. One way that is available to all of us regardless of gender, race, family status, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status to ensure that our community knows who we were, what we valued, what faith we practiced, who we loved, what we want our children, grandchildren, and relatives to know about our life and life lessons, is to write a Will.

The first part of a Will is a publication statement and for all of us, this is where we can offer our words of purpose, claim a faith-based practice as our own, make a declaration as an artist, tell our community who we were and what we were all about.  This opportunity exists whether you have significant financial assets or if the totality of what you own is a collection of books and music that are your world.

I encourage all of us to be bold! Let’s tell our own stories, in our own words, and use the permanent and public statement of a Will to achieve this piece of justice for our community and in each of our lives.


(Coming soon…Part II; Impacting Your Community: Practical Reasons to Have a Will)

*necessary legal disclaimer (because us lawyers love them!): I share this information by way of starting a conversation, being a responsible and interested community member; nothing in this post is intended as legal advice, so please do not take it as such. Thank you for taking the time to read this post.*

Community: Examining Our Values, Our Outrage

1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
2. a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.
1. an extremely strong reaction of anger, shock, or indignation.


Examining what we value is a deeply personal act and, I believe, an individual responsibility. I wonder if this act can or should effect our immediate and our larger community. Is what happens ‘there’ and how we feel about events – terrorism in France, kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls and terrorism in Nigeria and on and on – directly connected to what happens ‘here’ and how we feel about events – the bombing of the Colorado Springs NAACP office, killing and abuse of unarmed children and adult civilians, the killing of police officers, and on and on.  Should our outrage, our solidarity, be piqued and call us to action – moving us from our homes and offices to the street en masse, raising our voices to demand new and renewed commitments from our elected leaders, from our neighbors, from ourselves – no matter the shore we find ourself upon?



(The speaker is Jules Ridgeway, Esq. of Evolved Lawyering, a Brooklyn, New York based practice found at evolvedlawyering.com. This clip is from a broader discussion on the connection of national and international events, our individual and collective roles in our immediate and larger communities, and the role of art/theatre in creating space in which to examine all. The conversation took place at Drama League of New York City on 8th November 2014 after a staged reading of UPON THE FRAGILE SHORE, written by Caridad Svich (appearing on the far left of the screen), directed by Gabriel Shanks, Executive Director of Drama League.)

Thank you to Gabriel Shanks, Executive Director, Drama League and to Brittany McCandless of CBS News and to Caridad Svich, playwright Upon the Fragile Shore for the opportunity to add my thoughts in conversation with such an esteemed panel and audience and  at the close of last year.



Community: Now More Than Ever



a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Are you asking yourself, ‘What the heck is going on in this world?!’ Because, I am.

When I read the newspaper, scan my Google alert headlines, or catch the news, I can easily go to a place where I think the entire world is in conflict.

It’s seems the actions of people in charge – be them local, national or international elected officials, be them chief officers of banks or corporations, be them civil servants like the police, be them religious institutions and their leaders – fail to account to the communities in which they sit, operate, and serve.

We are those communities.

Community is a noun by definition, but in order to BE a community with one another we must be active, we must DO something. But the big question is: how do we claim or reclaim our communities?

I understand community as our common responsibility, as being of benefit to us and as something valuable that cannot be left to others to define or decide who is included, where the boundaries and rights begin and end, and who gets to participate fully.

As an attorney, breaking down the distance and barriers that exist between citizens and their full enjoyment of rights is part of my responsibly. My profession is implicated in the fact that my local and global community feels this distance and often suffers gravely as a result. That is why articles like Alina Tugend’s “There’s More to Estate Planning Than Just the Will” is such a breath of fresh air coming from the legal world. If we are to repair our communities and give our community members the tools necessary to properly advocate for and protect themselves, we must share information; the kind of information that has been protected, hoarded, and siloed for far too long.

By sharing this information via the NY Times, Alina Tugend has engaged in a radical act and created a space for exchange that doesn’t overwhelm the possibility of community and meaningful interaction, but rather demands a new and renewed commitment to just that.