Kent State Alum Is Cast in Bravo Network’s 'Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard'
When he was a student at Kent State University, Preston Mitchum, BA ‘08, was heavily involved in student government and other organizations and recalls taking part in a considerable number of campus protests.
Now, the attorney and activist has become the peacemaker and voice of reason on the reality TV show, “Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard.”
Mitchum, 37, who resides in Washington, D.C., is about to begin taping season two of the show, which aired its first season in May and June on the Bravo network.
The show follows a group of 12 young Black professionals and entrepreneurs, who were friends or connected through mutual friends, for two weeks as they vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Season one was taped for two weeks in September 2022, but season two will tape this month so the cast is there during the busier summertime.
Making the Cast
Mitchum said he was vacationing at the Vineyard attending a party with a group of friends when one of them, model Jordan Emanuel, posted a photo of their group on Instagram. Later, a producer of the show contacted her about the group appearing on the reality show, which featured an all-Black cast.
No one in the group took the message too seriously at the beginning, but the producers persisted and eventually, the cast was selected and the premise for the show came to fruition, Mitchum said.
“It was very organic, honestly, how it came to be. It wasn’t my goal nor dream [to be on a reality show],” he said.
Mitchum said he was interested because he already was friends with half of the cast, and others were friends of friends, so he felt comfortable with the concept. He also was happy to showcase Massachusetts, because of its history of advancing civil rights.
“Massachusetts, in and of itself with a lot of their landmark decisions for LGBTQ rights, it was the first state in the country where Black people could buy property; and Martha’s Vineyard, there are African American heritage trails and museums. I was blown away by the history,” Mitchum said.
As an attorney, Mitchum said he had initial concerns that appearing on a reality show could result in him being taken less seriously as an activist, but he believes he is able to be himself on the show and having the expanded platform for his advocacy work is a good thing. There are viewers who would never know who he is or about his work for social justice if not for the reality TV show.
Social justice attorney
Mitchum graduated with honors from Kent State in May 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, with a concentration in public policy and a minor in Pan-African Studies. In August 2008, he started law school at North Carolina Central University, where he earned his juris doctorate degree in 2011 with a focus on constitutional law and civil rights.
After graduating from law school, Mitchum studied for a year at American University’s Washington College of Law in Washington, for a program specializing in gender and law, and has remained in Washington to build his career. He worked for non-profit organizations before opening his own consulting firm, PDM Consulting LLC, which focuses on policy and legislative analysis around issues related to reproductive health, civil rights and justice, voting rights and LGBTQ rights.
Mitchum said it was only after he graduated from Kent State that he came out as gay. His partner of three years is expected to make an appearance in season two of “Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard.”
The Reality of Reality TV
The Vineyard house is filled with cameras to capture every moment.
“I think the most surprising thing, honestly, was that there are literally cameras everywhere – probably except for the closets and the bathrooms – there's cameras every which way you turn including microphones in the headboards of the beds in the bedrooms. So, you become very comfortable with who you are,” he said.
Mitchum said it didn’t take long for his personality to come out, but he was surprised when he became the group's peacemaker.
“I tend to be the voice of reason most days in my friend groups,” he said. “You rarely found me in argumentative moments. It was very much moments of `Why the hell are y’all arguing?’”
Producers, he said, told him he quickly became a fan favorite.
Ohio Native Found a Home at KSU
Mitchum is originally from Youngstown, Ohio, and later moved to the Dayton area, where he graduated from Trotwood-Madison High School in Trotwood in 2004.
When it came to selecting a college, he was considering a historically Black college, as well as Purdue University and Kent State, which he had learned about through college admissions fairs.
He chose Kent State because the scholarship money offered made attending affordable. “After I received that, it kind of became silly for me to go to places where I would have had to pay too much because my family’s poor,” he said.
Even though Kent State does not have a predominantly Black population, Mitchum said he found a welcoming and supportive community at Oscar Ritchie Hall, where many of the professors became mentors and friends, including Professor Emeritus in Africana Studies George Garrison, Ph.D., and Amoaba Gooden, Ph.D., who now is vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“I was able to meet them through the Kupita program,” he said. “I was able to meet so many professors and mentors and father- and mother-figures who really shaped my worldview of Black people, of Black studies, of African history and really, an understanding of politics and who is most harmed by political systems.”
Kupita/Transiciones is Kent State’s cultural orientation, transition experience and year-long mentoring program for newly admitted and transfer African American, Latinx, Hispanic, Native American and Multiracial students.
Active Student Life
Kent State, Mitchum said, is where he formed and expanded his worldview and his understanding of politics and political systems. “I just don’t think I would have gotten that anywhere else,” he said.
Sarah Malcolm, executive director of Kent State’s Office of Global Education, was Mitchum’s academic advisor in the College of Arts and Sciences when he was a student and remembers him well. "I remember Preston fondly for his academic achievements and have followed his interesting and successful career path as an attorney and activist. I look forward to watching his appearance as a reality TV show cast member.”
During his four years at Kent State, Mitchum was involved in many student organizations, including serving as president of the Kent State Pre-Law Society, vice president of the All-Campus Programming Board, president of the Kent State Chapter of the NAACP, and two terms on what was then Undergraduate Student Senate. He also was active in Black United Students and was the 2007 Homecoming King.
“I used to protest so much,” he said, of his involvement with civil rights issues on campus, including instances of anti-Black racism. Despite those instances, Mitchum said he cherishes the time he spent at Kent State.
“Kent State shaped so much of how I think now,” he said. “Everyone really had our best interests at heart, even if we didn’t know it at the time.”
Mitchum said his busy schedule has not allowed for many return visits to Kent State in recent years, but he does hope to be back for Homecoming this fall.
Photo Credits: NBCUniversal/Bravo, Getty Images, Preston Mitchum