Zulfat Suara made history by becoming the first Muslim elected to a Metro seat in Nashville. Before the elections she stated during one of her interviews that even if she does not get into the council, she will pursue her life of activism.
Who is she?
Zulfat Suara came to the United States in 1993, but she is originally from Nigeria. She chose Tennessee as her home when her husband received an opportunity to do a fellowship at Vanderbilt.
Since she moved to Tennessee, she has been active in community service and leadership, all while working full-time and being a devoted mother of five. Zulfat founded an accounting firm that has worked with several county governments. She is currently working as the Assistant Controller of a local university in Nashville.
The Tennessee Economic Council on Women inducted Zufal into its Tennessee Women Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2018 she was named the 2018 Muslim Policy Advocate of the Year by Islamic Society of North America. She has been recognized with the FBI Directors’ Community Leadership Award and featured in the Jackson Sun’s Twenty Most Influential Women in West Tennessee. And only recently she received an award for Outstanding Service to Human Rights from the TN Human Rights Commission
During her campaign, Suara faced several Islamophobic comments and threats. But she also built a broad community of support from people representing many faiths across Nashville. Singer-songwriter Ketch Secor from the band Old Crow Medicine also vouched for her during the campaign. She campaigned on issues that are related to public education and city finances .
“I had to tell myself if I don’t get on the council I’ll wake up tomorrow and continue to do what I do as an activist,” Suara said in an interview. “Then I heard my supporters cheer. And I thought, ‘I have a chance.”
Eventually, Suara won one of the four seats in the At-Large Metro Council race after she brought in 34,237 votes.
Suara said the council is now more representative of the diversity of Nashville after winning the seat.
“To me it means the council is looking more like the city we represent,” she said. “I had very diverse support. It was black, white, Muslim, non-Muslim, young, old, gay, straight.
“It’s a message to people we are a welcoming city and a diverse city.”