Rachel Marvel, 27, grew up on the west side of Nashville, first in Bellevue then in a little town called Kingston Springs.
Graduating from Harpeth High in Cheatham County in 2006, she went on to attend Nashville State for her associate’s degree then MTSU for her bachelor’s degree.
Rachel said, comparatively, the west side of Nashville is made up of smaller communities. She said where she grew up she was the same as everyone else.
“We all knew each other and grew up with one another,” she said. “Everyone had the same skin color, same religious beliefs, talked the same and liked the same things as far as sports, art and music. It was nice and it was very comfortable but I needed a change and I wanted to experience something else.”
When she finished MTSU in 2011 with a degree in marketing, she moved to Antioch to expand her wings a little bit and meet new people. She said coming from the west, the east side of town is much more diverse.
“Some people are intimidated or scared by the amount of diversity, but I think it’s a beautiful thing,” she said. “I’ve learned from so many different cultures and met so many different people.”
Rachel never thought she would be where she is today. She said a part of her thought she would be married, settled down and have kids in a small little country house.
“I realized that wasn’t for me and God had another calling for me.”
a PASSION and a PURPOSE
Last year Rachel became involved in the fight against human trafficking. She began volunteering her time with Inspire Freedom Project, an awareness, prevention and outreach nonprofit organization that works to educate and end all forms of trafficking and commercial exploitation.
She wanted to be involved with an organization of this nature because she had seen women being victims of abusive relationships and had been in one herself.
“I was in a very toxic relationship for about 5 ½ years,” she said. “Once I got out of that and moved to the other side of town, Cross Point downtown helped me see the light and reconnect with the Lord.”
She said she started going to a more intimate church, Grace Church: Nashville, in Franklin.
“There, I started meeting people in the Franklin community like Cheryl Brehm, Miss Tennessee 2015, and Marc Hewlett, the founder of the Inspire Freedom Project, all within this past year. It’s like everything made a complete 180.”
Rachel said the Lord called on Marc to ask her about working with the nonprofit because he knew she had a similar story to these girls in the sense of not being treated fairly.
“I was blessed with the opportunity to have people come to me and help me overcome it, but there are a lot of girls out there who don’t even know that there is hope and there is light in that darkness, that they can get out of it. I want to help show them that they can have a second chance like I did.”
Rachel said that time in her life was very dark, and although she still has her moments of battling with forgiving herself, she’s a better person because of it.
“I’ve forgiven everyone else, and now I’m learning how to forgive myself. That’s where I am in my journey right now,” she said. “I want to help others to be able to find that forgiveness too.”
Rachel gave encouragement to women who may be going through the same thing.
“Don’t give up. Keep that faith as much as possible even when you feel like all is gone. There is someone out there that loves you. We love you and we care about you and we’re here for you. When you’re ready we’ll be here with open arms to give you love.”
Right now, Inspire Freedom Project is using the hashtag #BuyMusicNotGirls on social media.
“We are Nashville and we are Music City,” she said. “We were looking for something that represents Nashville, something that gets straight to the point. Buy music, don’t buy girls.”
“A lot of people don’t know about human trafficking and what better way to help the community than working together to stop this,” she said. “It’s a worldwide issue.”
Inspire Freedom Project was created in 2014. Its efforts are concentrated to and around Nashville but the organization is exploring the possibility of moving into other states.
BRIDGESTONE and PHOTOGRAPHY
Professionally, Rachel does marketing for Bridgestone.
She started four years ago in their retail stores, working with tires and being with the guys in the shop.
She then had an opportunity to move to customer support and inventory services and just recently was promoted to a marking position.
“Four or five years later, I’m finally working in my field,” she said stating she’s been patient. “It’s a sense of relief and accomplishment. I worked so hard in school, but when I graduated it was toward the end of the recession and Tennessee was trying to get back on its feet.”
Rachel also does photography on the side.
“I’ve had a camera in my hands since I was a little girl.”
She said she’s always liked being creative and capturing memories, but when she came to a dark phase in her life she didn’t really touch a camera.
Last year, Rachel met an Arkansas photography named Lindsay Garland. She said she starting going out with her on photo shoots and watching her work in Nashville. Then, Alex Ciaramitaro, previously featured on Neat Nashville, reached out to her about joining him for an Instameet.
“I did, and I meet so many awesome photographers,” she said. “I’m really thankful for those core people who have really helped me. ”
She said because of them, she’s able to promote and photograph the Inspire Freedom Project and do corporate shoots for Bridgestone.
“Last year was a crazy year. I went from a rough time in my life to now being able to utilize everything I’ve learned for a good cause.”
COMMUNITY MEANS LOVE
Rachel said when she thinks of a community, she thinks of a group of people, whether it’s a county, club or nation.
“It’s people coming together, working together and helping each other. It’s giving love and sharing and spreading that.”
She said God told her this year would be about love, and she said she’s made that her main focus.
“I’m giving love back to these girls,” she said. “I’m also sharing and educating people how they can give love to other people. It’s not about money, who did this or who did that. It’s just about that anonymous giving of love from your heart.”
“There’s something about being a part of a community that just lights a fire inside of me. It gives me energy.”
Rachel said she feels when people get involved in the community, there’s a positive frenzy that happens.
“It’s what we were meant to do. Being lonely is not a good feeling and I’ve been there,” she said. “People want to feel a part of something or feel like they have a purpose and I feel like the community is a big key to opening doors of opportunities for that.”
When Nashville started to become an “it” city a few year ago and saw huge economic growth and change, Rachel said her and a lot of other natives didn’t like it at first.
“We just loved our small quaint little city,” she said. “It was still very diverse and it was still fun.”
She said after having an opportunity to get out and meet more people and do more, she started to get more comfortable with the change.
“This city is a beautiful place, and it’s continuing to grow,” she said. “I do hope it calms down a little bit, though, because I feel like it’s growing faster than people can afford.”
Rachel said overall Nashville is a good city but also said like every good city has its up and downs.
“My only concern would be as humans we don’t get caught up in the moment. Right now, Nashville is in a moment. I just don’t want people to lose focus on their purpose and why they are in this city and what Nashville is really about.”
Rachel said she’s also worried about another recession and affordable housing.
“I want to buy a house, but I can’t afford to right now. I can comfortably say the same for about 50 to 75 percent of the people in my age group even with good paying jobs,” she said. “I don’t want to pay a quarter of million dollars to live in a box.”
She said she hopes Nashville continues to monitor and care for the city and its citizens. In the future, Rachel wants to be more hands-on with her involvement with Inspire Freedom Project and grow further in marketing with Bridgestone.
Thanks for reading Nashville!