Trinice McNally is a nationally-recognized activist, creative and educator who wears many hats. She is a founding director of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion & Multicultural Affairs at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and founding director of the Envisioning Safety On Our Campuses Now Project (ESOC NOW).
She is also an Ifá practitioner in the Yoruba Tradition with Ijó Ifà Ogùndá Másà, a spiritual temple in Hyattsville, Maryland.
“We provide healing, divination and many different resources and services to folks who are interested in learning about African traditional religions and indigenous communities,” she shares.
Trinice was born in London, by way of Jamaica. Her biological parents did not have the capacity to take care of her so, at just a year old, she migrated with her grandparents to Miami where she grew up undocumented.
“A lot of my story in childhood is about me learning how to adapt and how to survive really tough, sometimes even violent situations,” she explains.
Trinice’s grandmother encouraged her to become an attorney but she studied psychology in undergrad and transformative leadership in graduate school.
“I was introduced to the concept of student organizing and realized that I had been activating and mobilizing people towards issues that mattered,” she shares.
Honoring Oral Traditions
The earliest stories Trinice heard from her grandmother were steeped in freedom and liberation.
Her grandmother taught Trinice about Queen Nanny of the Maroons, a freedom fighter and enslaved African woman who was brought to Jamaica and ultimately protected her people and freed thousands of enslaved Africans.
“We were taught to revere her because of the way that she led as a Black woman who was captured and still found ways to honor her indigenous traditions & liberate others,” Trinice says.
Her grandfather also shared important stories about being part of the Windrush generation, a group of migrants who traveled to the UK from the Caribbean in search of work.
The oral traditions passed down from both of her grandparents helped inspire the work she does with ESOC, a network dedicated to transforming justice practices on college campuses. Part of this work includes helping students break harmful cycles and advance cultural awareness on campuses through archival practices.
“They have the lessons, they know that people have been doing this work, and they’re part of a legacy that has moved the institution in the right way,” she explains.
Learning to Live on Purpose
Everything Trinice does is grounded in her spiritual work and she believes in standing up for people who don’t have a voice. In 2020, Trinice wore a machete, which is an important part of her spiritual practice, along with an Off-White belt to the Defend Black Women March.
Virgil Abloh, one of the Off-White co-founders, reached out to Trinice after a video from the march went viral.
“Virgil Abloh became one of my mentors and closest friends,” she says, adding that their relationship led to conversations about the intersection of her spirituality, politics and creative work.
“So much work happened because of this really beautiful, honest relationship about how I was showing up for what I cared about,” she says.
Virgil reminded her of the impact she can have as a creative and she took opportunities to work as the creative director for multiple social justice impact programs. He passed away in 2021 from terminal cancer, but his life continues to inspire Trinice today.
“Every single day counts. And you can’t just fall short on your excuses or even your suffering,” she says.
Inspired by the lessons from her ancestors – including Virgil and her grandmother – Trinice continues to bring her full political and spiritual self into her work as an educator, creative and organizer.
“If you have a way, and you have resources to make something happen, then you have to do it. Virgil Abloh taught me how to live on purpose,” she adds.