A Place to Call Home: Jaiel Mitchell’s Journey in CC Performing Arts

Written by Sabre Morris

Home is where the heart lies, and sophomore Jaiel Mitchell has found that in Colorado College’s music, theater, and dance departments. Mitchell is a sociology major who sees the performing arts as the common thread in her life. She was raised in Aurora, Colo., where she lived amongst an extremely musically talented family. Consequently, she was naturally drawn to being on stage and performing for hundreds.

The atmosphere toward racial inclusion within the preforming arts has progressed little by little. When first arriving at CC, Mitchell felt the performing departments were exclusive in terms of color, but over time they have opened up. Additionally, Mitchell recognizes the tireless work of students and faculty who fought for the dance, music, and theater departments to create content that minorities at CC would be interested in. “You have to provide opportunities that we’re going to identify with,” said Mitchell. She expressed her excitement when she learned that the music department at CC is hiring an African American woman professor, and sees this as an example of the departments striding toward greater inclusion.

Mitchell says that being an artist helped her navigate a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) as a women of color. “Being creative and being a performer is a good outlet for me, so the stresses that come with being at a PWI as a women of color, I can filter those through my art,” she said. Additionally, Mitchell reflects that her time at CC has opened her up in many ways. She considers herself more internal, so being hyper visible in the music and dance departments is hard but absolutely necessary. 

Her art and sense of purpose as an artist has become clearer by being a woman of color and a role model for underclassmen. “I’ll have freshman girls ask me how to navigate dance workshop or how do you make a piece as a black girl?” she said. Mitchell has learned that by embracing these positions she can help guide other women of color in CC’s arts programs to similar success.

Mitchell performed in Bare: A Pop Opera and theater workshops with a lead role. She also played a compelling and resilient woman of color in For Mamie Till-Mobley, which she described as a “visceral experience.” Then, in the fall, she performed in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, directed by Idris Goodwin. Shortly after the build up of racial tensions on campus, Mitchell contends that this piece was desperately needed for black women at CC. This was one play where she felt she could channel everything that she was going through in this art form.

Mitchell performed in various pieces for Dance Workshop and in numerous genres including hip-hop, modern, and the classical Indian dance Bharatanatyam. Additionally, Mitchell had the opportunity to choreograph her own dance. In the fall semester, the dancer choreographed a piece with Trevon Newmann for Dance Workshop titled “I Remember.” It was centered on Black Lives Matter, “positionality,” and the interpretations of police brutality as a student at CC. This spring semester, Mitchell participated in two pieces for the faculty dance concert, Dance Six. One was a contemporary piece choreographed by Patrizia Herminjard in which she was able to both sing and dance.

In between acting and dancing, Mitchell sings her heart out. She takes voice lessons and sings in CC’s all-female a cappella group, Ellement. Mitchell recently sang with popular student band Promiscuous Stepsister for fun at Battle of the Bands during Block 6. It was a completely new experience but another necessary moment in her growth as a performer. The peak of her career thus far has arguably been preforming with Promiscuous Stepsister. In this moment she did not have to choose which talent she would use. She could simply be all four: a musician, singer, dancer, and actress. In that environment Mitchell could groove and sing without reservation, but also play this character of an outgoing, exciting woman.

Mitchell continues her love for the arts by creating spaces for all to participate. Brittany Camacho, Alyssa Miller, Jaiel Mitchell, and Tia Phillips started Artists and Makers of Undying Nobility (AMUN), which is a club for artists of color at CC. While fairly new, the group has taken full initiative in planning events. In February they hosted a celebration for the Harlem Renaissance with jazz music, poetry, and Cajun food. Mitchell is excited for the future of this club and the new opportunities for artists of color on this campus.

While the performer cannot choose which talent—acting, dancing, or singing—brings her the greatest elation, what she does know is that these talents are the truest extension of herself. “Who I am on a stage, is the authentic representation of Jaiel,” she said. “I think that’s the place I feel the most at home and that’s the place I feel the most comfortable.”

While her artistry is still in the making, her victory and success shine as she continues her performance career here on the stages at CC, her home.

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