In 2017 I had the pleasure of playing Mr. Blake Mitchell on the #Degrassi: Next Class. Teachers on this show don’t have much of a story line due to the nature of the show. So I had to build one for myself to play him.
Back story ( You can skip to the END for the rest of the blog)
32 years old and single. He was dating his high school sweet heart all through high school but his decision to serve in the Army for 3 years, with 2 tours in Iraq, put a strain on the relationship which caused it to end. While he was bed ridden for 2 months due to a leg wound, Mitchell contemplated the Troops to Teachers Program that the Army offered. Being a man of service, he thought if he couldn’t serve on the battlefield, he could serve in the classrooms to help students realize their true potential like the Army did for him.
Being a war hero was all he read about in story books growing up. He loved how books made him feel, empowered, frustrated, elated and heartbroken all at the same time. Being the avid reader that he is, teaching English would be his subject of choice to teach.
Upon finishing his degree, Degrassi High at the time, was looking to hire an African Canadian relatable and friendly English teacher and Mr. Mitchell jumped at the chance. After being hired, and getting a tour of the school, he realized how fortunate he was to be working in such a diverse environment. Every colour, creed, religion and sexual orientation you can think of. It was like a cross section of the globe all under one roof. And his class was no different. Two Months into teaching his new English class and after receiving multiple book reports from his students, Mr.Mitchell spotted the writing talents of Miles Hollingworth. His ideas and prolific writing style, unbeknownst to Miles, separated him from the rest of the class which drove Mr. Mitchell to push Miles to his limits to be the best writer he could be.
In this episode, Mr. Mitchell stumbles upon an opportunity for diverse applicants, such as Miles, to hone their skills abroad in London but feels “less than” because of his diversity.
When I was going to high school, I was one of the five awarded a $10,000 scholarship that was offered to Black graduating students going to university the following year that exhibited Academic and Athletic excellence. I wasn’t Like “Naw.. keep that money.. your just giving it to me cuz i’m black.."!? I was like “ Thank God.. every penny counts!!”
I didn’t get that award because of my diversity. That scholarship was awarded to me due to my hard work on and off the court. I am not my diversity. You are not your diversity. That’s like saying “ You are your car” , “ You are your clothes” , “You are what’s in your bank account” ... oh don’t get me started.
Society will do its best to try and places you in these boxes. “what do you do?” “where do you live” “you rent or buy” I say be aware of these attempts of bondage and mentally break free of them. If doors like this open up for you due to your diversity, embrace them. You are a talented person that just happens to be __(Fill in the Blank)__. Not the other way around.
This is why this episode connected with me so much. In the Reel Section of the page, I edited the episode just to show the Miles and Mr. Mitchell story line but you can catch the whole episode on #Netflix Season 4 Episode #3.