Craig Mitchell: DJ, Musician, Activist, and Community Member

Honoring his 30+ year (and counting) legacy.


Craig Mitchell deejaying. Photo by: Luke Awtry.

“Within these walls on this dance floor there’s no such thing as gay or straight, White or Black, man or woman,” proclaims Craig Mitchell. “We are all one people united by rhythm.” 

Whether it’s deejaying downtown, advocating for the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities, or assisting HOPE Works and Recovery Vermont, Craig Mitchell is a highly visible community member and a champion for doing good.

Mitchell grew up in Michigan, intrigued by music from a young age as he listened to Prince, banged on the drums, and later grew a fascination for cassette tapes and turntables which he used to create his own mixes. “I didn’t realize I was putting together DJ mixes,” he explained.

Mitchell’s first official deejaying gig was when he was a student at Saint Michael’s College. He filled in for a DJ who cancelled at the last minute on the College’s Valentine’s Day dance. Because of this gig, friends and community members recognized Mitchell’s talent and asked him to deejay other gigs around town. Most notably, Mitchell deejayed at 135 Pearl, a club for the LGBTQ+ community that was open until 2006. A proclaimed introvert and truly humble soul, Mitchell described how he has never liked promoting himself and how he is grateful that the gigs that he has received have been primarily through word of mouth. “I’ve never had a business card,” he noted.

Because of his somewhat sheltered upbringing in Michigan, Mitchell explained how, at the beginning of his deejaying career, he had not been exposed to such a diverse and inclusive community in Burlington and especially at 135 Pearl. Being a gay, Black man, Mitchell explained his struggles to find his identity in a society where who he was was not fully accepted. 

“I mostly consider myself Craig first. Craig is gay, so that comes second and Craig is Black, so that comes third. I’ve been shunned because I’m not Black enough and I’ve been told I’m not gay enough,” Mitchell explained. “I would like to live in a world where I don’t need to be called gay, I don’t need to be called Black, and I can just be the name I was given on April 20th, 1971. That’s all that I want: to be called Craig.” 

He describes how whether through music or community service, he feels that his passion to help others stems from his own struggles. He stated, “A lot of parts of my life are enhanced by giving, taking care of others, and making sure they’re okay.” 

Craig Mitchell Hosting “A Colorful Talk Show” with Executive Director of HOPE Works, Natania Carter. Photo by: Jim Lockridge.

Mitchell has been able to give back at organizations such as HOPE Works, an organization created to raise awareness about sexual violence and to provide support for survivors, and Recovery Vermont, which provides support for individuals affected by substance abuse and mental health issues. 

Mitchell has supported HOPE Works in many ways, one being his recording and mixing of audio PSAs. He stated, “HOPE Works is important to me as a survivor of sexual violence and as a man of color who is willing to admit that publicly. For me, it is important to be a voice there.” 

Additionally, at Recovery Vermont, Mitchell hosted weekly virtual dance parties during COVID-19.

Craig Mitchell deejaying Recover Vermont’s dance party at Big Heavy World. Photo by: Jim Lockridge.

Mitchell explained, “Beyond just substance abuse, they deal with suicide and depression and as someone who is clinically depressed and also someone who has been suicidal, for me to directly impact someone who is going through what I’ve gone through in some way warms my heart.”  

Mitchell has deejayed and performed all around the world including Canada, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. He has also mixed several songs that have made it to the Billboard charts, including his mix of Yoko Ono’s “Walking on Thin Ice” that made it to #1, and performed many gigs as the lead singer in a Prince revival band, “Purple” (which just performed a spectacular first comeback show on November 13th at Higher Ground after a several month hiatus due to COVID-19). In the Burlington scene, he has deejayed at just about every bar and nightclub. 

For his 50th birthday this past April, Mitchell’s colleagues created a song, “Fifty is Nifty” in Mitchell’s honor benefitting Recovery Vermont. On top of this, Seven Days also honored Mitchell’s career as a deejay, musician, activist and community member. 

Mitchell performing with “Purple,” a Prince tribute band. By: Luke Awtry.

To read the memories and remarks from Burlington community members about Mitchell and his influence on the community, you can read the Seven Days article here.