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McKinney Honored with DEI Award for Efforts to Heal, Communicate

October 7, 2020

Adam W. McKinney has a passion for healing.

“The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award is an annual award created to honor the challenging task of further transforming our community into one that not only celebrates our mission and also creates a world-class university building on a heritage of inclusion,” said Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr. when announcing DEI Award finalists during the Sept. 14 virtual Convocation. “These individuals will be recognized for providing TCU with the critical voices necessary for change and for their sustained actions to transform TCU by making it an even more diverse, equitable and inclusive institution.”

Boschini announced McKinney, assistant professor of dance in the College of Fine Arts, as the winner of the 2019 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award.

“In the nomination form, Adam received accolades for leading campus-wide conversations on healing and community and for his involvement in the Fort Worth arts community on issues of race, justice, equality and healing,” Boschini added.

“At this urgent moment in history, we, as Horned Frogs and as Americans, have an opportunity and responsibility to ‘get it right,’” McKinney said during Convocation. “And in order to get it right, I offer these three ideas: First, listen to each other, without judgment, and notice our inherent connectedness. Second, breathe. In traumatic situations, we dissociate. Our thoughts, actions and memories disconnect. We must breathe to calm our nervous systems. And third, seek out deep and close relationships. Systems of oppression have categorized and labeled us, leaving us isolated without access to one another. And it is each other, in fact, that is our greatest, most precious resource. I welcome us all to move in the direction of one other to create a more peaceful and just world.”

Created in 2017, TCU’s annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award honors an individual who has provided a critical voice to foster change and who has worked to further a campus environment that advances conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The university’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award signifies our recommitment to our collective work in ending all forms of oppression and racism, specifically,” McKinney said. “I stand among many of my colleagues on campus who are tireless leaders in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion programming and action, and I am pleased to be recognized by the university for my work in this area.”

Classically trained, McKinney has danced with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Béjart Ballet Lausanne and Alonzo King LINES Ballet. Named one of the most influential African Americans in his birthplace of Milwaukee by St. Vincent DePaul, McKinney has led dance work with diverse populations in Africa, the Middle East, Central America, Asia, Europe, Canada, the United Kingdom and across the United States.

His research sits at the circular intersections of dance performance and dance studies, anthropology, community, anti-racism, healing and technology. He and his husband are co-directors of DNAWORKS, and McKinney is president of the Tarrant County Coalition for Peace and Justice, an organization that works to preserve histories of racial violence as a way to understand the multifaceted nuances of our collective pasts. 

McKinney joined the TCU faculty in 2016. “In 1949, Texas Christian University was the first university in the United States to offer a bachelor of fine arts in ballet, and I was excited to continue the long history of success that the unit has attained,” he said. “The breadth of study in the School for Classical & Contemporary Dance inspired my interest in joining the full-time faculty. Additionally, the unit’s commitment to DEI work influenced my interest in being a part of the unit.” 

The students and the ways McKinney is able to lead, work and learn alongside them have kept him here ever since. He also enjoys the opportunities to collaborate across disciplines with colleagues in other colleges and programs. Furthermore, he said, the collective and collaborative work he co-leads in Rwanda would not be possible without the support of TCU. This work — led alongside Professor Susan Douglas Roberts, Director of International Services John Singleton, TCU alumni and students — in support of Godelieve Mukasarasi, who is a 2018 TCU Global Innovator and a 2020 TCU honorary degree recipient, affirms TCU’s long-term commitment to survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, the SEVOTA organization and SEVOTA Peace Institute, he added. 

McKinney has several exciting projects on the horizon: 

His Shelter in Place, a museum installation at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education in Portland, is a Black Jewish response to histories of oppression through film, photography and dance. Though the museum is currently closed, the multimedia installation is completely viewable day and night from the sidewalk until late November.

He is creating a new dance film work this fall for Bruce Wood Dance in Dallas based on the story of Reuben Johnson, a man who was lynched in Dallas County in 1874. “The process of choreographing via Zoom is working surprisingly well,” he said. “It is a pleasure to work with professional dancers in this capacity.” Premiering online in November, the dance film will be available through Bruce Wood Dance’s website.

In addition, McKinney is in the throes of creating Fort Worth Lynching Tour: Honoring the Memory of Mr. Fred Rouse, an augmented reality social justice dance performance that takes participants on a bike tour associated with the 1921 lynching of Fred Rouse. The production is meant to engage Fort Worth community members in conversations about racial healing and reconciling histories of trauma and violence. 

Lastly, McKinney’s HaMapah/The Map Dance-on-Film debuts in February 2021. This work is an extension of his stage work HaMapah/The Map, which he performed on campus in October 2019. For the production of HaMapah/The Map Dance-on-Film, Adam was awarded a 2018 Research and Creativity Activity Fund Grant to travel to traumatic locations associated with his genealogy and create dances there as a way to reclaim land and space.

More about McKinney:

Go-to morning beverage? First, water, then black coffee

Do you have a favorite style of dance? I don’t think so. I’m in love with all dance.

Favorite course to teach? Co-teaching Ballet Partnering with Dr. Jessica Zeller

Favorite food? Avocados

Favorite book? Life of Pi

Favorite show? Jeopardy!

Favorite musician? Nina Simone

Favorite way to unwind? My go-to is yoga.

Hobbies? Cycling

A fact people may not know about you? I’m pretty open with what I share, but maybe people might not know that I attended an Orthodox Jewish day school for nine years.

What you’ve missed most during the pandemic? Connection

If you could spend a day with one person from history, who would it be? Bayard Rustin

What do you love most about the TCU community? Our commitment to taking steps to heal history