The Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ), the largest Catholic social justice conference in America, is coming to DC this weekend with a number of prominent Black Catholics on the docket.
Now in its 24th year, the Jesuit-inspired event is in a hybrid format, after going all-virtual last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The in-person event is scheduled for November 6-8th at the Washington Hilton.
The IFTJ attracts students from Jesuit schools around the country, and though this year is no exception, the weeklong high school track was held virtually last month, leading up to a livestreamed event on October 16th featuring Sr Norma Pimentel, MJ and Fr James Martin, SJ.
Kicking off this weekend’s event is Olga M. Segura from the National Catholic Reporter, author of “Birth of a Movement: Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church”. She will lead a Q&A on Saturday for a pre-conference Solidarity on Tap event that will run in-person and online at 4:30pm ET.
The keynote speaker at 6pm will be Fr Bryan Massingale of Fordham University, the nation’s foremost speaker on Catholic anti-racism. He gave a talk on the topic early last month at the Black Catholic Theological Symposium, and over the summer received Pax Christi USA’s Teacher of Peace Award. During his acceptance speech, he said that “White nationalism is the greatest threat to peace in our time”.
For one of the breakout sessions following his talk, Black Catholic environmental activist Sharon Lavigne will speak on the work of her nonprofit Rise St. James, which opposes cancer-causing factories along “Cancer Alley” in predominantly-Black Southeast Louisiana. She was the 2021 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize.
In a simultaneous breakout, Dave Ragland—an alumnus of Cardinal Ritter College Prep, a Black Catholic high school in St Louis, and co-executive director of the Truth Telling Project—will co-lead a presentation with a Black Protestant minister on police reform and Catholic Social Teaching.
Sunday’s schedule includes diversity and inclusion professional Dr. Deborale Richardson-Phillips, an African American who serves as vice president of Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, as an Ignatian Network Speaker at 9am during the second general session.
The breakouts to follow will feature Lauren Morton of Bee at Peace Inc. in Atlanta, leading a session on women's empowerment. Among her fellow interlocutors will be Melissa Lowery, director of equity and community at Central Catholic High School in Portland.
A Black seminarian, Patrick Saint-Jean, SJ, will speak at 1:10pm on the Ignatian response to racism. He is the author of a recent book on the topic, “The Spiritual Work of Racial Justice”, and a second entitled “The Crucible of Racism” is due in February 2022 from Orbis Books.
In all, more than 30 different presenters will be featured over two days at ITFJ, before a “Public Witness” demonstration near the Capitol on Monday morning at 10am.
In-person tickets for the event are available at $160, and students in the Cristo Rey high school network pay $35. Tickets solely for the Solidarity on Tap event (21+) can also be purchased at $15, and Saturday-only tickets—including SoT—are $50.
All of the keynotes, Segura’s SoT event, and several breakout sessions will be livestreamed on YouTube.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).