Two weeks ago Cornell hosted Tarana Burke, the founder of the international #MeToo movement. Her goal is to empower survivors of sexual assault and let them know that they are not alone. In her speech she opened up about about her past and what she has planned in the future to continue her work with survivors. Here’s a recap for anyone who couldn’t make it to the packed house.
Burke was working in Selma Alabama out of high school and realized an important issue was not being addressed in the community. She noticed that there were never talks about sexual assault when those issues so clearly needed to be discussed. Burke decided to create her own group to empower women of color and provide them with leadership skills. Messages of hope were spread through the program like, “ You are worthy just because you exist “ and “[referring to trauma] This is not what defines you, this is not who you are, and you can move forward.” She also came up with the famous phrase MeToo to empower survivors of sexual assault. Starting in 2006, Tarana Burke began focusing on helping people live and grow after their assault.
Fast- forward to 2017 when Burke woke up to see a trend on social media of #MeToo that she had not started. As the phrase gained momentum a lot of people were unaware that she was the originator of the phrase, but Burke was proud to see an international movement had begun. Burke recounts, “ I couldn’t imagine a time when the world would be ready to openly talk about sexual violence all the time.” And man is it about time. This was a conversation that media and the general public simply would not have and it was unfair. Burke also highlighted that “this movement is not just for cisgendered white woman.” This movement is for people of all colors, sexualties, and the entire gender spectrum.
Burke currently works with Girls for Gender Equity where she continues to teach leadership skills and works to end gender based violence. Her hope for the future is to make people feel safe when speaking their truth. The last thing Tarana Burke left us with was a reminder that healing is an ongoing process, “Let’s heal ourselves and let’s heal are communities because Me Too.”