2019 Nashville Most Powerful African Americans: Ones to Watch

The four individuals who comprise our “Ones to Watch” list have already made a significant impact in their respective fields but are brimming with so much potential that they could one day possibly surpass the type of power many of their contemporaries exude today.

We opted to highlight these rising stars in an appropriate context that rightly honors their contributions among the work of their peer group.

Zulfat Suara Metro Council At-Large

Zulfat was elected as an at large council member in September 2019. With over 34 thousand votes from a very diverse population (Muslim, Christians, Jews, Black, White, Gay, Straight, Old and Young), she became the first Muslim to be elected to the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and the first immigrant elected to an at-large position. She is the first Muslim woman elected in the State of Tennessee and the first Nigerian woman elected to any office in the United States.

Zulfat Suara is originally from Nigeria but came to the U.S. in 1993 and chose to make Tennessee her home when the opportunity for her husband to do a fellowship at Vanderbilt presented itself. She has been active in community service and leadership since she moved here in 1998, all while working full-time as a CPA. Zulfat founded an accounting firm that has worked with county governments in Hardeman, Haywood, Lake, and McNairy counties. She is currently the Assistant Controller of a local university in Nashville.

Michelle Gaskin Brown

Michelle Brown is originally from Nashville TN and she currently services as the Manager of Public Policy at Amazon where she oversees the company’s public policy and advocacy efforts in Tennessee. Prior to that role, Michelle was a leading lobbyist from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce as their Vice President of Policy. Brown was also an attorney at the Tennessee General Assembly for five years.

Michelle earned her undergraduate degree from Spelman College in Political Science, cum laude. She graduated from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

She serves as the co-chair of Indiana University Council of Legal Diversity, an At-Large Board Member for CABLE Nashville, a member of the Head’s Young Alumnae Council of The Harpeth Hall School, as a board member for Nashville CARES and the Tennessee YMCA Center for Civic Engagement.

Michelle is a member of the Kappa Lambda Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Urban League Young Professionals of Middle Tennessee, the Napier-Looby Bar Association and is active with the Hendersonville Area (TN) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.

Tequila Johnson

Tequila was recently named the Tennessee State Director for Tom Steyer for President. She also serves as the Vice President at The Equity Alliance. A Nashville-based 501(c)3, The Equity Alliance proactively advocates for African Americans and other communities of color to have a fair and just opportunity at realizing the American dream. The organization seeks to equip citizens with tools and strategies to engage in the civic process and empower them to act on issues affecting their daily lives.

Tequila earned her bachelor’s in psychology and sociology and her master’s in counseling psychology both from Tennessee State University.

Joshua Munday

Joshua Mundy is a native Nashvillian. His forecasting and visionary skill set has developed him into a serial entrepreneur with the ability to think of an idea or need in the community and quickly act to set a goal to meet the need. Joshua Mundy is currently the owner of Music City Cleaners located on Historic Jefferson St. He is also the co-owner of theLab Nashville, a co-working space that provides a space for creatives and entrepreneurs to network and make their dreams a reality.

Joshua is very passionate about entrepreneurship and believes in empowering and mentoring others in the community. He believes we are at our best when we are Learning, Growing, and Winning together.

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