Davidson County/Nashville General Sessions Judge Rachel L. Bell married her sweetheart and soul mate, the beautiful Dr. Dorsha James, an esteemed ER physician and co-founder/CEO of Campus RX. Nashville’s crème’de’la crème and community folk alike took part in what may be known as the historic wedding weekend celebration of the year. Historic captivation and intense creative planning joined forces with social grace, to produce one of the most memorable and heartfelt union celebrations in the mid-state.
Technically the deal was sealed on February 24 when the couple was legally married in a private ceremony, at their home church by Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings, senior pastor of New Covenant Christian Church. However, during the weekend of June 2-3, Judge Bell literally made history. She became the first sitting judge in Tennessee to formally and openly announce being gay. Before the private, intimate marriage ceremony took place at the church, Rev. Dr. Cummings administered pre-marital counseling to the couple.
This was no ordinary announcement as the judge and her soul mate chose to announce and celebrate their nuptials during National Gay Pride Week 2017. They are now legally married and chose to keep their own last names, i.e., Judge Rachel L. Bell and Dr. Dorsha James. The celebrations kicked off on an equally beautiful, warm evening at the downtown Nashville based venue known as ‘The Standard.’ A gala (filled to capacity) ceremony allowed guests to celebrate Judge Rachel and Dr. Dorsha in grand style. The Black Tie event hosted both families and local dignitaries who are celebrities in their own right. ‘A Night Written Under the Stars’ was the chosen theme, complete with a creative and well-organized program for the evening’s event.
The couple was even met at the entrance by a host of paparazzi, who captured the beautiful couple as they got out of their chauffeured vehicle. Both dressed eloquently in black dresses, with hair, accessories and shoes to yearn for. Before the couple and bridal party, family and guests were ushered into the venue, they each took photographs in the cobblestone, hall like entrance with red carpet on the ‘A Night Written Under the Stars’ themed backdrop.
Many old acquaintances (such as Dr. Katherine Y. Brown) and new enjoyed conversation and photographs with the couple during the cocktail hour. Opening prayer was delivered by Rev. Dr. Cummings, followed by a song from talented artist Tramaine Arte’-Mis, titled ‘Giving Myself.’ A formal entrance took place as they were escorted into the ceremony room via male family members. Dwayne Bell, Sr. escorted his daughter Judge Bell and Dr. Dorsha were escorted by her stepfather, David Gardner, Sr. and her uncle whom she calls ‘Dad,’ Earl Lee.
A video of the ‘official day written in the stars’ on February 24 was shown on a big screen and each dad publically gave their daughters their blessings.
Various tasty appetizers were served during the cocktail, meet and greet portion, but as good as they were they couldn’t top the five-star dinner that was served. Afterwards, guests were enlightened with words from family and friends, including: ‘The Meeting’ from Herman Hicks; ‘The Siblings’ from Dwayne ‘Chip’ Bell, Jr. and Kara Johnson; ‘The Sister Cousins’ from Sha’Mere Walker and Yolanda Thompson; ‘Our Boys’ from Fred Kilpatrick and Corey Carney; and ‘Our Girls’ from Rose Knalls, Angela Osborne, Kimberly Hayes and Roshon Kimble. Whereas all good things must come to an end, that evening did as well with remarks from Judge Rachel and Dr. Dorsha. Flurries of photographs were taken and many hugs of thanks and ‘see you later’ were shared.
On June 3, invitation-only celebration number two took place at the combined residences of Judge Bell and her parents, Dwayne Bell, Sr. and Beverly Bell. Amid the beautifully sculptured grounds, guests were treated like royalty and it was evident that loving and thorough planning was behind day-two’s event, themed ‘#TheInaugural NashvilleLovefest #rachelanddorsha.’
The history maker and her partner took photos with their guests in front of a specialty backdrop, ‘The Love Fest,’ complete with a tiffany blue heart with an orange equality sign in the middle. The Tennessee based, Jim and Nicks’ Bar-B-Que catered a savory and appropriately matched Bar-B-Que with cool refreshments served to accommodate the menu.
Both Judge Rachel and Dr. Dorsha were very accommodating hosts and clearly every detail was thought out well in advance, right down to the eye catching, 21st century Porta-Potties complete with air conditioning and flat screened televisions inside. Guests were captivated and entertained with live music from another realm of Nashville’s finest, complete with 92.Q’s radio crew, including: Yolanda ‘Yolo Bee’ Beech, Deejay and personality Kenny Smoove and Ernie Allen; top vocal artists CoJo Ko and TreMaine Arte-Mis, Laura Vida, and Dee Jones. The headliner for the night was Will Davenport who performed live musical tributes to the couple. Of course, such an evening of remembrance would have been incomplete without words of encouragement from parents and dignitaries.
Mayor Megan Barry is a history maker as well, as the first elected female mayor of Nashville. Mayor Barry presented the couple with a proclamation and commended Judge Rachel on her decision to openly ‘come out’ and congratulated them on their marriage. The proclamation was read and presented by Nashville City Councilwoman-at-Large Sharon Hurt on night two of the #Lovefest.
Tennessee state Rep. Brenda Gilmore, Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings and Mr. and Mrs. Bell welcomed the guests and gave loving remarks. “Our daughters are courageous, smart, hard working women, and we are happy they found love in each other. God is love and love is God. We are proud of their journey and the peace they find in each other,” said Judge Bell’s parents, Dwayne and Beverly Walker Bell.
“As the senior pastor of New Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) which is an open and welcoming church, I was honored to be able to conduct their marriage counseling, officiate their wedding on February 24, and finally participate in their wedding weekend celebration, June 2 and 3. I’ve known Rachel since she was a little girl and I have enjoyed watching her mature, grow and find her life partner in Dr. Dorsha. They are an amazing couple.”
Scripture used included: 1 John 4, 7-8: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
“In accordance with the sacred text it is my prayer that churches everywhere would consider being loving, opening and welcoming to all of God’s children,” said Rev. Dr. Cumming.
Both Judge Rachel and Dr. Dorsha are strong advocates of their immediate community and the community at large. As caring leaders, they have forged strong relationships as community advocates via various programs and bring a wealth of knowledge to the forefront, from each of their professions. Nothing compared to the obvious love and admiration they share for each other, as it was clearly seen on their faces and by their actions. There are two old sayings that state: “Love conquers all” and “Love wins.” Everyone felt true love and adoration on both evenings.
“We are so excited about finding love and want the focus not to be on sexuality but intellectuality. We have never liked being labeled different. We are children of God and look forward to having more conversations and dialogue about love. Focus on our hard work to becoming one of the hardest working judges and an ER doctors that cares about our community and giving back our talents to hopefully make everyone else’s life better,” said the newlyweds, Rachel and Dorsha.
Attendees hugged the couple and wished them safe travels on their official honeymoon and all the best to them in their new life ahead. As the beautiful night at the #Lovefest came to an end, Judge Bell wowed both Dorsha and the guests with a hidden talent, her beautiful voice! She serenaded Dorsha as a special gift, including all the artists as background singers. They sang ‘Let’s Stay Together’ by Al Green as the large crowd joyfully cheered. The wedding weekend celebrating Judge Rachel and Dr. Dorsha was magical and memorable.