What I Learned from #MeToo Founder Tarana Burke

One of my favorite things about being a college student is having the opportunity to hear so many amazing speakers on campus. Last week, I got to learn all about Tarana Burke and the Me Too movement. Burke was named 2017 Time Person of the Year for founding the Me Too organization, which she initially created to support women of color sexual assault survivors.

Burke grew up in the Bronx in a family that believed in the importance of women’s rights. She was exposed to feminist literature at an early age. Burke got involved in the 21st Century Youth Movement Group founded by veterans of the Civil Rights movements to pass on their work ethic to the youth.

 

Burke worked again for 21st Century after college. Here, a young girl named Heaven confided in Burke and told her about how she was being molested by her mother’s boyfriend. In this moment, Burke realized she needed to confront sexual violence by validating Heaven and other survivors. Burke wondered who else needed validation, reassurance, and empathy. She held sessions to give the language that young girls need to identify themselves as victims. Burke would say, “it happened to me, too.”

 

Soon, Burke recognized the importance of power in numbers, power in community. She started a MySpace page, and adults began to reach out to her. She learned that adults need healing, too. Through social media, the Me Too movement gained traction.

Tarana Burke reminded the audience that this movement is not a witch hunt. It is a global movement of survivors and allies focused on healing and action. It is not about an individual perpetrator. It is about a system of privilege, power, and accountability. It is not an awareness campaign. We are already aware of the sexual violence epidemic. It is about action and a moral imperative. We need to shift the conversation.