Tarana Burke, the Warrior Who Started the “Me Too” Movement!

author-img By sagnika sinha 5 Mins Read 11 September 2023

Tarana Burke

A strong female, Tarana Burke is well known for her activism and business sense regarding society’s contemporary growth and development. Her initiative made a social movement possible on such a scale! 

Have you heard about the Me Too movement? Did you know that it was Tarana Burke who founded the Me Too movement in 2006 to request victims of sexual violence to come out, assist them and give them a voice? One of the famous black women in history, Burke helped a lot of other women!

Women of color are often overlooked when it comes to awareness of misbehavior and misdemeanor! It is, therefore, important to understand that Burke created a platform for women of color as well to speak out about the sexual violence they have suffered without any fear.

Tarana Burke, the Warrior Who Started the “Me Too” Movement!

Tarana Burke who Started the Me Too Movement

She was born on 12 September 1973 in The Bronx, New York. At a very young age, Burke was aware of the surroundings around her and how she needed to be involved if she wanted to bring change. She was passionate about community organizing and was heavily into activism.

In the 1980s, she became a member of an organization known as 21st Century that focused on youth development. As a youth, Burke was aware of issues such as economic initiatives, racial discrimination, and housing inequality; thus, she went on to launch initiatives and lead campaigns.

Taran Burke went on to attend Alabama State University, and of course, it was influenced by her passion for activism. The university is known as a Historically Black University (HBCU); hence, the decision helped develop her organizing skills.

Who is Tarana Burke?

What is Tarana Burke, a community organizer, an executive, or an activist? She is all this and much more! Let’s explore how she made a huge impact on the global social justice movement against sexual violence and abuse.

Known for her movement, “Me Too,” she created a hashtag used over 19 million times on Twitter. In 2017, due to her social justice work and civil rights activism, TIME magazine named her the Person of the Year. 

Me Too Movement: A Viral Movement

Throughout her college career, Burke was actively involved in leadership and advocacy for social justice. Once she graduated, she lived in Selma, Alabama, while working for the organization 21st Century. Here, she met several young women of color who were survivors of sexual abuse and violence!

Considering she was a survivor of sexual violence and abuse herself, she identified the damage that these young women were experiencing. She started creating opportunities where she put effort into supporting these youths. Looking for a safe space and providing support and resources to young women became her goal in life!

Burke started encouraging women to share their stories of sexual abuse and violence. It was in 1996 that Burke, working in a youth camp as the director, met a young woman who wanted to speak to her alone about her sexual abuse and violence.

This was after Burke had already organized an all-girl bonding session in the camp. Burke was unprepared for this at the time; however, this event became the foundation of the “Me Too” movement. Even Kamala Harris, a politician has also been aware of the movement.

Role of Investigative Journalism

In the era of social media activism and digitalization, the Me Too movement is pushed forward with the practices of investigative journalism. You will learn that these documentation and social media practices have helped bring many cases of sexual harassment of women.

For example, the predatory behavior and attitude of popular Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein were uncovered by journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor! There are several confidential settlements related to Weinstein, which he orchestrated to silence his victim!

A well-known American actress, Ashley Judd, came forward with her story of how Weinstein sexually harassed her in a hotel room after he scheduled a business meeting. Many women are worried about coming to the public about facts like these because they are worried about their profession future and their personal lives!

The producer is not in prison after receiving 23-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively. The number of cases that came up against him was shocking, where the charges included sexual assault and conviction of rape.

Change in Law

Taran Burke is mostly related to the nonprofit sector and works towards the overall growth of all individuals, especially people of color. She has served several organizations as a social activist by being at the helm of leadership! Taran Burke is considered with the likes of Rosa Parks and Johnnie Tillmon!

She was a managing director in a Philadelphia-based Black arts organization called Art Sanctuary. Burke was also the Executive Director of the Black Belt Cultural Arts Center, where undeserving youth were given opportunities through her community programs.

Me Too movement became so huge that you will be surprised to know that they had to change the law for it. On a global scale, the movement became well known, leading to lawmakers starting to propose bills which knock down any barriers for victims of sexual abuse and violence.

The victims of sexual abuse and violence often had to face harassment and challenges in criminal, civil court systems, workplace and society. The bills focus on eliminating arbitration-binding agreements and sexual harassment training!

Finally, New York State and New York City implemented widespread Post-Me Too reforms. The focus is on the mandate of sexual harassment training in the workplace, and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the law. The STAND (Stand Together Against Nondisclosure) Act was also integrated into California.

The act banned all use of nondisclosure clauses, especially those in sexual misconduct settlements. In 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden signed two pieces of federal legislation that trace the roots of the Me Too movement. It evaluates the NDAs enforced in the workplace and implements the Speak Out Act!

How did Tarana Burke Start the Movement?

Through her different networks, Burke kept working towards creating a better place for youths, especially youths of color. She also worked on a program that she co-founded for young women of color called Jendayi Aza, an African-Centered Rites of Passage Program for girls.

Through unique workshops and programming, Burke created a community where her programs brought tremendous change among the young black girls. It encourages and empowers them towards a better life.

She also promoted “empowerment through empathy” and trained survivors to facilitate healing. The phrase Me Too was coined by her nonprofit to assure young women of color that they are not alone. The hashtag became the source of inspiration, bond, healing, justice and awareness.

The term was used by Alyssa Milano, An American actress, writer and producer, in a tweet that became the tipping point of the movement. She asked other women to write Me Too as a response to her tweet where she mentions if anyone has been sexually assaulted or harassed!

Once Milano learned about the phrase’s history, she gave Burke credit. Imagine—a 44-year-old black woman was already doing what Hollywood realized after a decade! They are often seen together whenever they need to collaborate for the greater good of the movement.

What was the Impact of the Me Too Movement?

Of course, the movement was criticized because not everyone accepted every big change! Not everyone agrees with you similarly; when a poll was conducted in the U.S. in 2022, it was observed that about half of Americans supported the movement.

However, the difference of opinions was heavily influenced by Politics. According to the reports, Democrats were more likely to support the Me Too movement than Republicans. Do you think that, at some point, the Me Too movement was more of an instrument used by different people for their benefit?

Is it more of a power-wielding tool for people with authority and power? People who think so claim it is more of a “cancel culture” practice where judgment is rushed. People thrive on taking down power by using these types of tools.

Finishing Off…

To summarize, Tarana Burke coined a term about a deeply uncomfortable issue that no woman should experience! However, what matters is coming out in the open and speaking about it without facing challenges, judgment, and trolling.

The Me Too movement made this possible to some extent! Of course, there are still powerful individuals who try to cover up sexual misconduct, but the movement has gone viral, empowering women and making them aware of its history.

Comment on a Me Too story that inspired you the most and why!

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sagnika sinha

Sagnika Sinha is a content writer who is passionate about writing travel vlogs, entertainment and celebrity articles and literature-based pieces. With a 4 years experience in teaching, she loves reading books. A procrastinator by nature, she loves travelling, listening to music, planting and gardening.

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