As February comes to a close, we would like to end this Black History Month with an inspiring woman we think everyone should know about. New York-born Tamara Burke founded the ‘Me Too’ movement in 2005, and when this became a viral hashtag in 2017, she evolved as a leader of the conversation, making sure that the focus was on survivors and the need for survivor-centred solutions. Her main aim is to interrupt and dismantle systems that allow for sexual violence to occur, specifically in Black, queer, disabled, and all communities of colour.
For nearly three decades, Tarana Burke has committed herself to working towards racial justice, anti-violence and gender equity. Particularly focusing on sexual violence and how it disproportionally affects Black women and girls, Burke has created and led campaigns in order to raise awareness concerning such issues as well as to increase survivors’ access to resources and support. JustBe, Inc. was to be Burke’s first organisation – she created it as a space for young women of colour to be empowered by programming and workshops. Shortly after this, the ‘Me Too’ movement was born, through which Burke seeked to encourage the idea of empowerment through empathy, noting that joining the ‘Me Too’ movement is about (re)claiming one’s agency.
What sets Burke’s activism apart from others’, is how she ties together the issues of racism and patriarchy. As Black women are more vulnerable to police misconduct such as excessive force and sexual abuse, they are also less likely to report any abuse to the police, since this is not a safe or feasible way to get help. According to Burke, the most marginalised in the movement must be the ones to be central in ending sexual violence. Survivors of colour should be leading the conversations and bringing forward the solutions; they should feel empowered and be encouraged to step out of the silence that has surrounded their voices for so long.
“Acknowledging the interlocking systems of oppression is a critical element toward collective healing and systemic change.” – Tarana Burke
In honour of Black History Month, the ‘Me Too’ movement published the Survivor Healing Series – virtual sessions led by health practitioners that are focused on how to deal with crisis and trauma, providing skills and tools that can lead the way to personal healing. There is also a workbook and a virtual healing room, which can all be used for personal reflection. These resources can be found here: Survivor Healing Series (metoomvmt.org)
“We knew that sexual violence wasn’t plaguing only our communities; sexual violence is a global problem, doing harm to people in nearly every community. However, the challenges we faced as women of color to raise awareness and undo the pathologies that allowed this harm to take place were compounded by our marginalized identities and lived experiences.” – Tarana Burke
In 2017, Tarana Burke, along with other ‘Silence Breakers’ was named Person of the Year by TIME Magazine. In 2019, Burke was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in Australia. Over the years, she has published many articles, spoken at international fora, held a TedTalk and made a difference for survivors around the globe. She has also published a memoir, titled ‘Unbound: My story of liberation and the birth of the me too movement’. Burke currently lives in her birthplace New York with her daughter and works as the Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equity, forever dedicated to achieving social justice.
Written by WAVE Intern India Stotesbury
- Articles — Tarana Burke
- me too. Movement (metoomvmt.org)
- Tarana Burke Biography (womenshistory.org)
- The ‘me too’ movement’s success took a decade of work, not just a hashtag. And there’s more to do. (nbcnews.com)
- We Can’t End Racism Without Listen To Sexual Violence Survivors | ELLE Australia
Our last post: Black History Month: 5 Black women writers you should know
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