Laura McTighe, Columbia University
Hakim ‘Ali, Reconstruction, Inc.
Laura McTighe and Hakim ‘Ali have worked together for more than a decade, providing immediate relief to people in prison and those returning home, and advocating for the transformation of the policies of mass criminalization that cripple so many in this country. In this public conversation, they bring stories of people they have worked with and of themselves to reflect on the intersection of gender, race, religion and incarceration. They are concerned not only with the specific experience of those held in women's facilities and those held in men's, but also with how prisons themselves are constituted by and constitutive of racial and gender injustice in American society at large. Moreover, they are interested in how gender and race have been refracted differently through the complex history of religion and incarceration – from the theologies that undergirded the rise and expansion of the prison industrial complex (PIC) to the religious truths that drive communities in working towards its abolition today. Building knowledge that straddles the prison walls, they will leave those in attendance with a picture of what life looks like everyday in this police state and how communities are daily working to change that. Laura McTighe is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. Her research unfolds at the intersection of religion, race, gender and migration in North America, with a particular focus on the American South. Through her dissertation, “Born in Flames,” she is working with leading Black feminist organizations in Louisiana to explore how reckoning with the richness of southern Black women’s intellectual and organizing traditions will help us to understand (and do) Black history, American history and religious history differently. Laura comes to her doctoral studies through more than fifteen years of direct work to challenge structural policies of criminalization and support everyday practices of community transformation. Currently, she serves on the boards of Women With A Vision (New Orleans), Men & Women In Prison Ministries (Chicago) and Reconstruction (Philadelphia). Laura’s writings have been published in Beyond Walls and Cages: Bridging Immigrant Justice and Anti-Prison Organizing in the United States (2012), the International Journal for Law and Psychiatry (2011), Islam and AIDS: Between Scorn, Pity and Justice (2009), and a variety of community publications.
Hakim ‘Ali was born in Washington, North Carolina, and came to Philadelphia with his family at a very young age. He has 5 brothers and 1 sister. He has been a practicing Muslim since 1969, and has held the position of Imam (i.e. spiritual leader), in both Federal and State correctional institutions, where he served 40 years. During his incarceration, Hakim received an “AA” degree from Hagerstown Junior College in Maryland, and his “BS” from Morgan State University, also located in Maryland. Since his release in 2003, Hakim has been involved with many community organizations addressing prison-related issues. Currently, he is the PR/Outreach Coordinator for Reconstruction Inc., and serves as the Administrative Assistant for the projects/programs within Reconstruction’s umbrella. He is also a member of Decarcerate PA, a Pennsylvania coalition working to stop prison construction and to establish whole, healthy communities. Hakim made a determination that it is far better to give back to his community, than to deprive it of the wealth and safety that it deserves, and he views himself as: “the voice of the voiceless.”
Co-sponsored by: Religion Studies