Tarana Burke is credited with founding perhaps the most ground-breaking social movement in recent years: Me Too.
The #MeToo hashtag, using the same name as the organisation Burke set up to support survivors of sexual violence in 2006, went viral in 2017 in the wake of media producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse allegations. Over time, it has exploded into a global movement in which women have felt supported to discuss allegations of sexual misconduct by prominent men in entertainment, academia, law, and politics.
For her role in shaping and supporting the movement, Burke was selected — alongside a prominent group of activists, dubbed the “silence breakers” — as Time Person of the Year for 2017.
In a sensitive feature in the Guardian, Burke’s was described as coming to the end of 2017 as someone with “no great taste” for social media, as her work with survivors of sexual violence “didn’t lend itself to public pronouncement.” She’d originally only imagined the phrase ‘Me Too’ ending up as a bumper sticker on someone’s car, a signal between survivors of sexual violence. But it usually had no public presence, as “for her kind of work to be done right, she believed, most of it needed to be done in the dark.”
The piece relates how in the weeks after the New York Times expose of Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo hashtag was used more than 12 million times.
Burke’s influence led her to receive the 2018 Prize for Courage from the Ridenhour Prizes, awarded to individuals who demonstrate “courageous defense of the public interest and passionate commitment to social justice.”
She continues to organise workshops to help improve policies at schools, workplaces, and places of worship, with a focus on helping victims not blame themselves for sexual violence.
Burke is now Senior Director at Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn, an NGO which promotes the physical, psychological, social and economic well-being of girls and women.
As detailed on Wikipedia, Burke inspired her to work to improve the lives of girls who live through sexual violence after experiencing sexually assault as a child and a teenager. While at university, Burke organised press conferences and protests on economic and racial justice.
She worked with survivors of sexual violence, then developed the nonprofit “Just Be” in 2003 — an all-girls programme for young black girls aged 12 to 18.Tags: Diversity and Inclusion, Equality, feminism, MeToo, USA