I would like to take a moment to congratulate my friend, constituent and national Latina leader Renata Soto. Soto is one of the founders of Nashville’s Casa Azafran Community Center, an economic hub housing 10 non-profits that revitalized the South Nashville community. The Tennessee State Legislature has honored Soto’s appointment as chair of the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest and pre-eminent Hispanic civil rights organization.
My only disappointment about this honor is the fact that it almost didn’t happen. Last week the resolution was stalled because Republican leadership objected for unfounded reasons. For more than 30 years, La Raza has helped provide education, health, housing, workforce development and other services to millions of American families. The group has grown to nearly 300 affiliates across the county, three of which are in Tennessee. This organization is non-partisan and has even worked closely with the two Republican senators from Tennessee. The group worked with Sen. Lamar Alexander on his Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed into law last month, and with Sen. Bob Corker on housing finance reform to ensure families can buy and keep their homes. In addition to the complete disregard of the facts last week surrounding La Raza, here are a few important points about Ms. Soto’s life that were ignored:
• She is the wife of Pete Wooten and mother of Gabriel and Camila
• She was named Nashvillian of the Year in 2013 by the Nashville Scene
• She was selected as a ‘Woman of Influence’ by the Nashville Business Journal in 2008
• In 2012, she was inducted into the YWCA Academy of Women of Achievement
• She received the third annual Edwina Hefner Community Leader ship Award in 2009, recognizing leaders whose community work pay tribute to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
• Member of the 2013 class of Leadership Tennessee
The list goes on and on from there. It is shameful that Republicans almost turned their backs on a Tennessean who has worked tirelessly for the betterment of this state. Renata Soto is a woman that a national organization known for bipartisan efforts to advance the causes of Latino families turned to provide leadership—but her own home state almost declined to honor her in favor of partisan politics. All Tennesseans should join me in honoring Renata Soto for her hard work on behalf of the people in this state and wish her well as she leads Casa Azafran and helps guide the National Council of La Raza to continue to fight for Hispanic rights across the country. I will continue to stand up for women and leaders like Renata Soto, as well as those for whom she works tirelessly.
Rep. John Ray Clemmons represents the 55th District in the Tennessee House of Representatives.