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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Councilwoman Zulfat Suara speaks to Women in Government and Muslim Students Association

Suara spoke to students about her work in office and the importance of getting involved in advocacy and community work.
Councilwoman Zulfat Suara speaks to a student audience
Claire Gatlin
Councilwoman Zulfat Suara speaks to a student audience, as photographed on March 24, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Claire Gatlin)

Nashville Metropolitan-Area Councilwoman Zulfat Suara spoke at a March 24 event co-sponsored by Vanderbilt Women in Government (WIG) and the Muslim Students Association (MSA). She spoke about her work in public office and how students can get involved in their communities.

Suara was elected to the at-large position of the Metro Nashville Council in 2019, making her the first Muslim and Nigerian woman to be elected to any Tennessee governmental position. She also became the first immigrant in Nashville to be elected to an at-large position in the county. Additionally, Suara is the first Nigerian woman elected to any office in the country. 

Despite explaining that she never set out to be in politics, Suara first ran for office in 2014. As she raised her children and became immersed in Nashville, Suara said she witnessed many issues, particularly within the education system. She cited issues such as school quality disparities, which she said particularly disadvantaged Black and brown communities. This topic, she added, was a major source of motivation for her run for office.

“Every corner of Nashville needs to have the same resources,” Suara said. 

Suara also discussed the ways in which her identity has shaped her experiences in politics. She said that although it seems like all the odds are stacked against her, she views the many facets of her identity as an advantage, 

“Because of the intersectionality of all my identities, I’ve been able to act as a bridge for all the communities I serve,” Suara said. “It’s made me a better representative.”

Suara also touched on the challenges she has faced when trying to implement change in her position. She claimed some of her colleagues exhibit ignorance when crafting policies about other communities’ experiences, like those of immigrants.

As the event came to a close, Suara reiterated the importance of getting involved in one’s community through volunteering, voting and advocating for causes that you are passionate about.

“Whatever experiences you have, there’s a place for you,” Suara said, “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”

Junior Namrah Ajmal and president of MSA explained that inviting Suarez was an intentional move during Women’s History Month.

“We wanted to empower the sisters in our own community and others in the general Vandy community to be active in politics and work for the change they want to see,” Ajmal said. 

During a Q&A at the end of the event, Suara was asked how she balances her work in public office with other responsibilities without becoming exhausted Suara described a typical day in her life, stating that she sets aside explicit time for professional work as well as family bonding. 

“You have to find a way to pace yourself,” Suara said. 

Suara was also asked about the recent redistricting of Nashville and ways students can voice their thoughts on the policy. She expressed her disappointment with the change, saying that she now believes Nashville residents will have less direct involvement in local politics under the new bill. The new legislation appoints three different representatives for the city. Suara claimed the redistricted lines stemmed from legislators’ lack of conscientiousness regarding Tennesseans’ welfare.

“[The redistricting bill] is an abuse of power, a way to suppress minorities,” Saura said. “The redistricting is a mess, a shame.”

Sophomore Sarah Memon who attended the event said she appreciated how Suara discussed relevant issues affecting the Vanderbilt community. 

“I really enjoyed hearing her [Suara’s] opinions about current events, especially ones affecting the local political scene, such as redistricting in Nashville,” Memon said. 

To close out the Q&A, Suara was asked about how to avoid bias in a polarized political landscape. Suara reminded the audience to reflect upon their values and the reasons that drive them to get involved in public service. She acknowledged that her decisions in public office may align more with one political party, but reiterated that she tries her best to do what is best for her community as a whole. 

“I vote what I believe is best for my constituents,” Suara said

WIG’s Vice President of Political Involvement and sophomore Macy Su said she was grateful for the event’s turnout. 

“I think this was a great show from the Vanderbilt community in terms of solidarity with minority communities,” Su said. “It was amazing to see the unique questions people asked based on the stuff that she was talking about.” 

Ajmal said she was inspired by the event and looked forward to more in the future.

“We collabed with WIG because empowerment is a goal we both share,” Ajmal said. “I would love to collaborate with them again on similar events in the future.”

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About the Contributors
Duaa Faquih
Duaa Faquih, Former Staff Writer
Duaa Faquih ('24) is majoring in political science and minoring in communication studies in the College of Arts and Science. Apart from forcing her friends to watch videos of her cat, Duaa loves reading fantasy novels, painting and trying new restaurants. She can be reached at [email protected].
Claire Gatlin
Claire Gatlin, Former Life Editor
Claire Gatlin ('24) is a student in Peabody College studying human and organizational development and political science. In her free time, she enjoys going to concerts, reading and rollerblading. You can reach her at [email protected].
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