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Race & Religion Speaker Series: “Abolition is Sacred Work: Race, Religion, and the Practice of New Worlds"

On November 15th, Professor McTighe delivered the second lecture in the two-part “Race & Religion” Speaker Series co-sponsored by the Religious Studies Department and Africana Studies Program. Dr. McTighe, an Assistant Professor at Florida State University and co-founder of the Tallahassee Bail Fund, brings over two decades of experience in partnering with grassroots communities. Her community-engaged scholarship focuses on utilizing religion to build more survivable worlds outside traditional institutions.

In her lecture, “Abolition is Sacred Work: Race, Religion, and the Practice of New Worlds,” Dr. McTighe emphasized the sacred not as separate from the profane but as something cultivated through relationships and efforts to rebuild the world. This approach encourages exploration of innovative theories of change and the challenges they present to society. She explicitly brought attention to the apparent incongruity between the sacred and the pursuits of social movements, encapsulated in the title of her talk. She posits that the struggle to preserve one's life is often a spiritual and sacred endeavor, paving the way for the inclusion of religion in abolition and other social movements. This perspective encourages a broader perspective on race, religion, and the practice of constructing new worlds.Dr. Laura McTigue

She guides listeners into the world of abolition that she has been part of as a researcher, organizer, and teacher. Abolitionists, as she articulates, aspire to transform society fundamentally; their objective is a comprehensive overhaul of society at its roots. This ambitious goal involves a committed effort to identify and confront the systems and structures that perpetuate violence, all while nurturing a new society founded on love. With an unwavering commitment to social transformation, her research explores the intersection of race and religion in America. Taking an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach, she has cultivated partnerships with leaders in social movements over decades. Driven by the need to understand and address the complex injustices shaping our world, she explores how religion can serve as a tool to envision and collaboratively build a future beyond the current state. This effort has prompted her to reimagine the study of religion, advocating for a practical approach that not only describes the world as it is but actively works towards realizing what it should be.

Relationships play a pivotal role in both McTighe's research and her engagement with abolitionist movements. The foundation lies in building connections and leveraging the strength of the past to construct a meaningful present. This, according to her, is the essence of viewing abolition as sacred work. In this context, sacred refers to the power inherent in the bonds we form. Relationships, in their essence, provide the energy needed to pursue genuine change in the world.

In the pursuit of constructing new worlds, the adoption of five core principles proves essential for achieving transformative change. "Moving at the speed of trust" establishes a foundational pace for transformative work, demanding faith and encouraging the cultivation of loving relationships and envisioning a better world. Recognizing the gradual nature of transitioning into relationships at the speed of trust, particularly those actively under construction, highlights the inherent social aspect of building connections and worlds. The second principle involves mapping the worlds and people that make us whole, underscoring the importance of recognizing and honoring resources in our immediate environment. As social beings, our connections and worlds play a vital role in our well-being. The third principle encourages collaborative efforts with others, emphasizing the significance of learning from wisdom traditions and diverse worlds, involving experimentation, and drawing lessons from both successes and failures. The fourth principle centers on continuous learning, epitomized by the mantra "Try and Try Again," urging individuals to leverage their strengths and work cooperatively to understand the root causes of violence and practice alternative approaches. The ultimate goal, as highlighted in the fifth principle, "Free Us All," is collective liberation. Each preceding principle contributes to a collaborative endeavor aimed at breaking free from existing constraints, emphasizing ongoing efforts until freedom is achieved, and highlighting the pivotal role of everyone involved in this shared journey.

Dr. McTighe prompts us to contemplate, "What can we imagine for ourselves and the world?" This deliberately challenging question sparks deep reflection, a sentiment palpably experienced by attendees of the lecture.