March is Women’s History Month. For this month we will focus on remarkable Black Women who have made history in the progression in the women’s plight. The first person we will discuss is Tarana Burke.
Tarana Burke is the woman who founded Me Too that eventually turned into the #MeToo Movement but let’s get into the genesis Tarana Burke’s Me Too campaigne and why she’s remarkable. The birth of the Me Too movement happened in 1997 when Tarana was told by a 13 year old girl that she had been sexually abused. Ten years after that impactful confession, Tarana Burke felt compelled to do something and that something was Just Be Inc founded in 2006, a nonprofit organization that assists victims of sexual harassment and assault. The purpose of Just Be Inc is to provide resources to victims. A work that wasn’t easy but Tarana selflessly provided a support system for victims.
Over time Just Be Inc turned into Me Too; dedicated to the conversation Tarana had back in 1997 with the young girl. At that time Tarana Burke didn’t have the courage to say “Me Too” in solidarity with the young girl but now she did with the Me Too campaigne. In late 2017 the phrase #metoo garnered social media attention when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted it during the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Alyssa Milano's Tweet:
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.
Then after #metoo became attached to sexual assault in hollywood. During this exposing process in Hollywood many Black women spoke up about Tarana Burke’s hashtag being used but without context as to who she is and no acknowledgement that she started the movement.
After Ayssa Milano tweeted her statement victims showered social media with their stories about sexual assault and sexual harassment. #metoo was used as a vehicle for people to tell their truth and to stand in solidarity with other victims. #metoo was shared in 12 million posts on all media platforms in the first 24 hours.
Tarana Burke had this to say about her hashtag taking social media by storm, “Initially I panicked.” “I felt a sense of dread, because something that was part of my life’s work was going to be co-opted and taken from me and used for a purpose that I hadn’t originally intended.”
Which is understandable because grassroots organizations are often co-opted by people and businesses that are big and sometimes self-serving.
But Alyssa Milano made the necessary corrections to give Tarana Burke the just dues two days later after sending the tweet by reaching out to Tarana and asking to collaborate with her.
Alyssa Milano went on Good Morning America and spoke to Robin Roberts to give Tarana Burke public recognition for the for Me Too campaign. This is what Alyssa Milano had to say about Me Too and Tarana Burke:
“What the Me Too campaign really does, and what Tarana Burke has really enabled us to do, is put the focus back on the victims.”
Though there are many conflicting personal issues embedded in layers of intersectionality by the people using Me Too as a hashtag, Tarana’s purpose was always to give the voiceless victims voices to speak their truth. Social media has enhanced Tarana’s outreach dispite Me Too being established before social media. Tarana Burke has stated that the Me Too campaign is bigger than just herself.
“I think it is selfish for me to try to frame Me Too as something that I own." “It is bigger than me and bigger than Alyssa Milano. Neither one of us should be centered in this work. This is about survivors.”
And this is why Tarana Burke was selected as the first woman for our Women's History Month (S)hero.
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