Usta News

Black History Month Spotlight: John Baton Mitchell( Thu, Feb 18 00:02:AM)

John Baton Mitchell is a former competitor and collegiate feature twirler, current coach and judge and the founder of Twirling to Fight Cancer. He lives in Henderson, Nevada.

Twirling Background

My twirling career began in first and second grade while at my Grandmother’s house. We would watch parades at annual summer holiday events and I would always ‘play parade’ with my mother’s baton.  
I am originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and by the time I was eleven years old and in the sixth grade, my mother was able to find me a private baton instructor that understood how to coach a male twirler. Her name was Nancyjean (Dolfi) Baker and she helped me reach many of my early twirling goals and dreams!

Twirling Successes

I have had some incredible twirling successes. Here are my top four.
1.    I was on the NBTA USA World Team and captured two silver medals and one bronze medal.
2.    I was the first male and first African-American to be named Feature Twirler for the Penn State Marching Blue Band and captured the Men’s Collegiate Twirling Championship title.
3.    I performed and appeared on America’s Got Talent and It’s Showtime at the Apollo
4.    I will always hold close to my heart that I was able to help coach and advise the next generation of college history-makers: first ever African-American female feature twirlers - Taylar Bolds (Ole Miss and SEC’s first African-American female Feature Twirler) and ReJoyce Green (UCLA’s first African-American female Feature Twirler).

Twirling Role Models

My top three twirling role models were Calvin Murphy, Donald Garcia and Dwight Hudson.

Twirling Impact

Baton twirling simply made me learn that I am a determined, purpose-filled and passionate person who has the ability to affect many people for the good. Regardless of whether it’s through baton twirling or not, I am able and more than capable of making a huge difference and impact on this world!

Did you feel valued and appreciated for the gifts you brought (bring) to the twirling world?

I do feel valued and appreciated by many people in the sport. I most importantly want any student I work with to feel supported and encouraged to reach toward their dreams, both related to their twirling and personal aspirations!  

I find that my nonprofit organization, Twirling To Fight Cancer has provided me with the greatest opportunities to feel supported and valued mostly because it creates the ability for me to help serve and bless others.  

Black History Month

Black History Month provides the opportunity for every kind of person to read, research and discuss various contributions that African-Americans have made to the United States. It gives a small acknowledgment and a way to celebrate greatness within a community that continues to be underrepresented, misunderstood and many times, very devalued.  

For me, Black History Month can also showcase African-American athletes’ incredible accomplishments and provide role models for future trailblazers, which I think is huge thing, especially in our sport. Believe it or not, this is the first time EVER I have been asked to speak about or be interviewed for Black History Month as it relates to baton twirling from the baton twirling community and its leadership.  

Barriers for Black Twirlers

The community of leaders needs to first acknowledge and recognize there is a huge disparity within our sport as it relates to African-American engagement and acknowledge that we have not done a good job at making a change to be different in it. In my opinion, this will provide an opportunity to get a ‘think-tank’ of people to discuss, strategize and implement systems that will begin to change, re-scope and rebrand the efforts and mission of the sport of baton twirling to reflect more of America and its people.

Inclusion and equality in our sport and in our world

1.    Put love in the center.
2.    Seek to understand. 
3.    Live life full out.
4.    Acknowledge the Truth.
5.    Learn how to use your voice.
6.    Be in action. 

Closing Thoughts

I find that asking questions and listening more than speaking can be the best way to learn. I also have learned that you loving you makes loving others so much easier. It’s important to remember that I am not running my show, however, a great energy force called God for me, has this all in divine order and I am simply a vessel to carry out his goodness and love!

Moreover, I believe and I tell my students this motto: Nobody is perfect, but today I want you to be the best baton twirler you can be, through hard work, dedication, focus and having fun. That is what it takes for you to be the best that you can be.