By Martie Thompson
Jessica Mechell is an IT professional whose hobby is songwriting and performing Christian rap music. She loves to travel and feels called to volunteer — but most of all, she strives to inspire. As she points out, there are a lot of things going on right now that can bring people down and she thinks it is important to find the positive wherever possible.
Mechell was born in Biloxi, Miss., into a military family; her father retired after serving 30 years in the Air Force. Growing up, the family moved regularly and she says that to this day she starts getting the “itch” to move after living somewhere for three years. She has lived in North Dakota, Texas, Japan, Arkansas, California and now calls Mandarin home. She earned her degree in computer information systems from Florida A&M University and her MBA from the University of Texas at Tyler. She has been married since 2018 to Jacksonville native T.J. Griffin.
Q: How did you come to live in Mandarin?
A: I met my now-husband, T.J., when we were both in college at Florida A&M. After I graduated, I went to work for Microsoft in North Dakota, which is actually where Microsoft Office Suite was developed. Then I went to Texas to work on my MBA and he wanted me to move with him back to Florida. I told him I would only do so with a ring on my finger! So we were married on May 19, 2018 — the same day as the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Now I work in the banking industry, managing the law firms that support the bank’s mortgage business.
Q: How old were you when you first became seriously interested in music?
A: I started rapping at age 11. I was inspired by my aunt, who was very musical. I looked up to her as a big sister. My passion for music continued to grow, including participating in rap battles at lunchtime in middle school. As I grew older, I transitioned to singing about faith-based topics. So far, music has been a hobby of mine; I’m trying to do it full time, but I haven’t made that transition yet. Before the pandemic, I would perform at churches and events all over town, but now I’m more in the online environment.
Q: What are you doing in this time of COVID to share positivity?
A: I just released a single, “Keep Hope Alive,” which aims to recognize those who are helping us win the fight against COVID-19. (Visit www.jessicamechell.com for more information.) I’m also introducing a campaign that invites people to send me their testimonies so I can share them with others. For example, I have heard from someone who lost his job, but then was able to become an entrepreneur and start his own business. I feel like people are feeling discouraged; they are stuck in their house, their plans are falling through, maybe they have been laid off … it’s a stressful time and everywhere we are bombarded with negative news. I want people to know that this is just temporary and things will get better! I was supposed to open for a Grammy Award-winning artist recently, but it too was cancelled. So I am using this time to perfect my craft so when this is all over, I’ll be ready.
Q: Where do you volunteer?
A: Pre-COVID, I volunteered once a month at Edward Waters College, talking to students about topics like financial planning and professional development. This past spring, I had the opportunity to host a panel of experts in an online workshop for high school students who are preparing to apply to college. (Editor’s Note: This workshop is still available to view online at www.jessicamechell.com/jminspires.)
Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: We enjoy travelling and have visited lots of places including the Bahamas and Jamaica. I consider myself somewhat of an ice cream connoisseur and I look for the best ice cream in every city we visit. Locally, I like Whit’s in Jacksonville Beach and Mayday in San Marco. But the very best ice cream I have found is in Charleston, S.C. at a place called Peace Pie. They serve two shortbread cookies with pecan pie filling and vanilla ice cream in the middle. It is delicious!
Photo courtesy Juan Kurtis