Tarana Burke is a civil rights activist who was the original founder of the “Me Too” movement, which she started in 2006. It later became a global phenomenon that raised awareness about sexual harassment, abuse, and assault in society in 2017.
Burke became involved in civil rights activism while at University, where she organised press conferences and protests fighting for economic and racial justice. After graduating from college, Burke worked at the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement, the Black Belt Arts and Cultural Center, and the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute.
In 1997, Burke met a girl she refers to as Heaven in Selma, Alabama who disclosed that she was being sexually abused. She did not know what to do at the time, and never saw the girl again. Burke wished that she had been able to tell her “me too” and this led her to found Jendayi Aza (now known as Just Be Inc,) which promotes the wellness of women of colour aged 12–18.
In 2006, Burke created a Myspace page for what would become the Me Too movement. She began using the phrase “Me Too” to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society. The page grew quickly, and Burke realised that the need for “Me Too” was bigger than she first thought. “This is not just about our small community,” she thought. “This is necessary. People are crying for it.”
In 2017, #MeToo became a viral hashtag after Alyssa Milano tweeted it in response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations. She then referenced Burke’s work on #MeToo and the hashtag became a movement for people to came out in solidarity with those who had been sexually harassed, abused and/or assaulted by stating that it had happened to them too. It also drew attention to the pervasiveness of the problem, especially in light of the wave of sexual abuse allegations that followed. Burke continues to work on the Me Too Movement and resources for survivors can be found at https://metoomvmt.org/
Burke is currently Senior Director at Girls for Gender Equity, where she organizes workshops to help improve policies at schools, workplaces, and places of worship, and focuses on helping victims not blame themselves for sexual violence. She was named as the Time Person of the Year for 2017 and included in a group of prominent female activists dubbed “the silence breakers”.