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- American civil rights activist
Source: Michael Rowe / for HelloBeautiful
Tarana Burke is a real one. As the founder of The ‘me too.’ Movement, she has planted herself in the middle of a hostile society and demanded Black women and girls be seen and heard and centered as survivors of sexual violence. She created a movement around addressing their trauma, nurturing their healing and encouraging them to thrive in the world. She’s done this work years before the masses were familiar with ‘me too.’ Burke took up this work because it was was necessary and Black girls’ lives are dependent on it. After four years of public facing, ‘me too.’ has bloomed alongside its founder, it continues on to evolve as she “lays the foundation to pass the torch” because that’s how movement work is done. She’s given much of herself to us, and to whom much is given much is required. Here’s what nine thought leaders have to say in honor of Tarana and The ‘me too’ Movement.
Allie McGevna, SVP, Content, iOne
The ‘me too.’ Movement demonstrates the power of women who come together with the goal of protecting their sisters. While many have tried to co-opt or manipulate the movement’s message, the work of Tarana Burke and her team speaks for itself. While this may be the anniversary of the movement becoming part of the common discourse, the mission of ‘me too.’ — to protect Black and brown women and girls — is a sacred one with a significant history and future ahead.
Bruce Wright, Managing Editor, News One
Four years after the ‘me too’ Movement’s start, one thing should be abundantly clear by now: We need to believe women. That is especially true for Black women, who have a solid history of leading activism against sexual violence despite being among the most disrespected people in this nation. That need to believe women is slowly becoming ingrained in a society that is finally being corrected on the errors in its shamelessly patriarchal tradition. Is the work done? Not by a long shot. But, after a series of significant victories – from taking down a disgraced comedian with an alleged penchant for spiking drinks and sexually assaulting women to forcing the resignation of a heavy-handed governor who apparently thinks “no” means “yes” — the future of the ‘me too.’ Movement’s form of restorative justice seems extremely bright. We all have Tarana Burke to thank along with the growing number of people she has influenced to carry on ‘me too.’s effective and necessary tradition.
Cynthia R. Greenlee, Historian and Journalist
While we may think, and with good reason, that the ‘me too.’ Movement started only a few years ago — and that women have been largely silent about the sexual violence — women have spoken out long before hashtags or the Internet existed. Black women have been at the core of that: exposing the fact that white men violated them with impunity in slavery and freedom; fighting against rape as a political weapon during Reconstruction; using the legal system in defense of themselves and others, as Rosa Parks did almost a decade before the Montgomery bus boycott. We’ve said consistently through history that Black women and girls have rights to safety, health, and choice. And the rest of this country has benefited from Black women’s self-aware yet collective advocacy. Where would we be without us?
Denene Millner, Author and Publisher
I’m from the generation in which men regularly and openly catcalled, touched and otherwise attacked and abused women with abandon, even as we were all coming to understand that such behavior wasn’t ‘acceptable and those who violated should be held accountable. Rarely were they. And it was hard to speak up against that kind of behavior, of which I received plenty. It was terrifying to have a boss repeatedly tell me that I was going to “love it when we make love”—equally so when being chased down the street by men spitting on me and calling me a “bitch” for politely declining their advances. The MeToo moments are far too many to name. But today, things just feel… different. Like my daughters can feel just a little bit more safe on their jobs, in their classrooms, as the ‘me too.’ Movement has opened a real pathway to holding men accountable while giving women the ability to link arms and proclaim loudly, THIS IS NOT RIGHT AND IT NEEDS TO STOP. That a Black woman is the architect of this moment—this movement to help women support women as we work through the damage that kind of behavior causes—makes it all the more sweet.
Ernest Owens, Editor and Journalist
Before Hollywood took notice, Tarana Burke’s work endured. ‘me too.’ has taught a new generation how to show up for survivors—and believe them. A Black woman did that. Never forget.
Gail Brooks, Cultural Strategist
In 1985, the British journal Race Today asked Toni Morrison about the responsibilities of the Black woman writer, to which she replied “To bear witness to a history that is unrecorded”. In this day and age, social media has imbued us all with the power of the pen (or pixel in this case), to voice the unrecorded histories of Black Women that continue to fester under the weight of patriarchal white supremacy. With this power comes a responsibly to bear witness for we cannot change that which we have not named. As a Black Feminist, I will continue to center the histories of generations of Black Women. Women whose voices have been but a whisper in the winds of change. So on this fourth anniversary, I say thank you to Tarana Burke for creating ‘me too.’ I thank her for creating a vehicle to bring us together as a community to bear witness as women, women of color, and allies. And to those who cannot stand the sounds of a patriarchy crumbling, I sing in my best Solange voice, “This is for US”.
Jameelah Mullen, Content Creator
When I think of the ‘me too.’ Movement the first word that comes to mind is : disruptive. It kicked down the door of to social structure that supported problematic behavior—that not only shamed and blamed victims into silence, but contributed to us being willing and complicit participants in our own oppression. It ripped the band aid off of old wounds and provided me with a safe space for healing. It validated my experiences and let me know I was not alone. Tarana remained relentless when others tried to derail the movement by denying its validity by taking credit for her work and attempting to shift the focus from the Black women. Sis wasn’t having it and neither were we. On behalf of the little Black girl inside of me, the grown ass woman, the survivor in me, I thank Tarana for heeding the call. She will always have my love and support. I’m excited to see what’s next.
Joyce Davis, DE&I Communications Leader
What I remember about the eruption of the visibility of the ‘me too.’ Movement in 2017, is that I didn’t know anything about it before it gained significant social media traction after actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet. The ensuing conversation driven by Black Twitter about and involving the Black woman founder, Tarana Burke, fascinated me. But it did not surprise me. Black women and those in marginalized communities have been doing such work for hundreds of years that has not been recognized until the majority shine their light on the issues. As always in these situations, I was intrigued and proud of the Black woman, Tarana, for the work she had been doing for at least a decade previously. And, as always, I also felt some kind of way that I was unaware of her invaluable efforts. In the years since, I have been continually grateful for her advocacy and vulnerability. Every other Black woman I know, including myself, has a ‘me too.’ experience. As the mother of a teen Black girl, I honor all who are raising their voices, being activists for policy changes and sharing their stories. I pray that education and awareness has a deep impact – a significant reduction – on the reasons for this movement.
Kirsten West Savali, Senior Director of Content, iOne
Tarana Burke, the founder of the ‘me too.’ Movement, which predates the hashtag by a solid decade, has consistently reiterated that her life’s mission is not to focus on the persecution of men but the healing of Black women and girls. Still, at the intersection of state and sexual violence, you will find Black women who are silenced, ignored and erased—just as mainstream media, Hollywood, and some people in our own communities attempted to do to Tarana herself.
Today serves as a testament to what happens when Black women, in the tradition of Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin, refuse to give up their seats, refuse to be sidelined, refuse to have our experiences consumed and co-opted by a society that has made assaults against our bodies permissible. Systemic oppression has always been mapped on the bodies of Black women—whether that oppression manifests through state violence or in our own communities. The ‘me too.’ Movement understands that white supremacist cishetero-patriarchal systems may attempt to destroy us, but we must water our own daughters’ gardens to make sure they, we, thrive despite it all.
Yes, this movement is for little Black girls who were told they needed to be silent. Still.
This movement is for the Black girls crying in their rooms at night, confused by the pain inflicted on their bodies and hearts by people who claimed to love them. Still.
This movement is for every single Black, Brown, Indigenous and AAPI woman, every girl, femme, gender non-conforming person, man, boy, and child, who has never had support, safety, or a soft place to land. Still.
This movement is for Black women who have been told their work doesn’t matter, that nothing they do or say could possibly change the world. Still.
Tarana Burke, sister of my heart, loves us. She has always worked and fought for Black girls without the expectation or desire for recognition. She is always, always, always love in action—even when she’s navigating her own pain. Now, she has changed the world. But more importantly, every little Black girl under the sound of her voice knows that there are Black women who look like them, who love them, who are them, who will fight for their joy, peace and healing until their dying day. So, today, on the fourth anniversary of the viral #MeToo moment catapulting the ‘me too.’ Movement into the global spotlight a full decade after its inception, I celebrate the power of Black women, the capacity that we have to love and heal and hold each other through it all. In the words of Lucille Clifton, I celebrate that every day something has tried to destroy us and failed.