In honor of National Women’s History Month, I will showcase a different woman each Monday this month. This week I will showcase Tarana Burke.
Here is another woman who is close to my heart. Tarana Burke is an African American civil rights activist. It was through the “Me Too” movement in 2006 that she gave many women a voice as she raised awareness about sexual harassment, abuse, and assault in society.
Tarana Burke was born on September 12, 1973 in the Bronx, New York. She grew up in a low-income family. Like many of us who are on the front line of this movement, Tarana was raped and sexually assaulted both as a child and a teenager. This undoubtedly drove her lifelong passion to improve the lives of those who experienced abuse of their own.
Tarana’s passion for community organizing began in the late 1980s; when as a young girl, she joined a youth leadership organization called 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement. She led and participated in initiatives around issues like police brutality, housing inequality and economic justice across the city.
While living in Selma, Alabama and working for 21st Century, she encountered dozens of black girls with stories of sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation, stories with which she personally identified. This led her to creating an organization committed to the empowerment and wellness of black girls, Just Be Inc.
In 2003, Tarana Burke founded a non-profit called Just Be Inc, which focused on the overall well-being of young women of color. It was there she had a conversation with a young girl who was being sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Sadly, this was not the first survivor who shared their story with Tarana. So, she decided to share her own story. Her message of “You’re not alone” was shared with survivors everywhere. She also shared, “This happened to me too.” It was from this point on that “Me Too” informed Tarana’s life-long campaign for activism to help girls and women who experienced sexual harassment, abuse, or assault.
In 2017, actress Alyssa Milano used the social media platform Twitter, to give global recognition to sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, by inviting those who experienced it to raise their voices. In a few short days, 40,000 people had responded to Milano’s tweet directly and more than 12 million people had used the hashtag #metoo across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The Me Too Movement was now global and survivors everywhere now had the words, the platform, and a voice to tell their stories. AMEN!!
This turned into the #metoo movement to Tarana’s pleasant surprise. She never thought something she started so long ago would help millions of survivors worldwide. She cemented her next step in her “Me Too” movement.
In 2018, Tarana founded ‘Me Too.’ International, a global non-profit organization that serves as a container for the vision and framework for the ‘Me Too.’ Movement. The organization serves as a convener, innovator, thought leader, and organizer across the mainstream and the grassroots to address systems that allow for the proliferation of sexual violence, specifically in Black, queer, trans, disabled, and all communities of color.
I love advocates who share in this work with me. Once you open that door, and help survivors find their voice, it never shuts. This work is so very important, and I applaud every one of you who carry the torch. I especially applaud Tarana for being one of the first to bring awareness to sexual harassment, abuse, and assault in this way. No one should have to experience such violence or feel they are alone. If you feel this way, I say to you, there are so many people who are willing to help. We are waiting to hear from you because you matter!
I will leave you with a quote from an interview Tarana had with CNN:
“On one side, it’s a bold declarative statement that ‘I’m not ashamed’ and ‘I’m not alone.’ On the other side, it is a statement from survivor to survivor that says, ‘I see you; I hear you; I understand you and I’m here for you or I get it.” Amen my sister! I am right there with you!! And I see you too!
Let us celebrate Tarana Burke today!
God bless you!
In his service,