As an activist, community organiser, and executive, Tarana Burke has made a big impact.
Known as the founder of the ‘me too’ Movement, Burke’s hashtag has been used more than 19 million times on Twitter alone.
Burke asserts that ‘me too.’ is more than just a moment in time. As the founder of this vital and growing movement, and as someone who has been organising within issues facing Black women and girls for more than three decades, Tarana has a commitment and vision that is bigger than any hashtag or viral moment.
Since then, Burke has been widely recognised for her work, and was named Person of the Year by TIME Magazine in 2017.
Tarana Burke was born in The Bronx, New York. As a proud native of the Bronx, NY, Tarana’s passion for community organising began in the late 1980s. As a young girl, she joined a youth development organisation called 21st Century. Burke went on to launch programs around issues including racial discrimination, housing inequality and economic justice.
Her work, combined with a desire to deepen her academic education and community organising skills, eventually led her to Alabama State University, a historically black institution, to further develop her organising skills. Burke’s advocacy and leadership continued throughout her college career.
Upon moving to Selma, Alabama, her career took an intentional turn toward supporting survivors of sexual violence. She encountered a Black girl who shared her story of sexual violence and abuse. Soon she found herself meeting dozens more. As a survivor herself, these were the stories with which she identified personally. Tarana faced the realisation that too many girls were suffering and surviving abuse without access to resources, safe spaces and support.
She continued to focus on young women of colour and co-founded an African-centred Rites of Passage program for girls called Jendayi Aza. This program evolved into her non-profit JustBe; Inc. founded in 2007.
This organisation was created to empower and encourage young Black girls through unique programming and workshops. JustBe, Inc. had a tremendous impact on the community, and the program was adopted by every public school in Selma, Alabama. Shortly after, the ‘me too’ Movement was born. Created as a way for young women of colour to share their stories, Burke began using the phrase ‘me too’ to promote the idea of “empowerment through empathy.” Her campaign was not only designed to facilitate healing, but she also wanted to train survivors to work in communities of colour.
While developing ‘me too,’ Burke continued to work in the non-profit sector. She served as Managing Director of a Black arts organisation in Philadelphia called Art Sanctuary. She was also the Executive Director of the Black Belt Cultural Arts Centre, where she created community programs designed for underserved youth.
A few years later, Burke’s work returned to the spotlight. During the 2017 Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal, Burke’s hashtag #metoo went viral. People all over the world began posting the phrase on their social media accounts to align with the movement.
Following this surge of support, Burke became a global leader and helped to get a larger conversation started around sexual violence.
In 2017, TIME Magazine named Burke and other “Silence Breakers” as Person of the Year.
In 2019, she earned the Sydney Peace Prize in Sydney, Australia. Burke currently serves as the Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn, NY.
Tarana’s theory of “empowerment through empathy” is changing the way the world thinks and talks about sexual violence, consent and body autonomy. Tarana has used her platform to share her long standing belief that healing is not a destination, but a journey. This philosophy has inspired millions of survivors who previously had to live in isolation to deal with the pain, shame and trauma of their experience.
Check out more of Tarana Burke’s inspiring achievements and aspiring accomplishments with her “Me Too” movement here
Tarana Burke has published two books, a powerful memoir about her own journey to saying those too simple, yet infinitely powerful words and how she brought empathy back to an entire generation&of essays on Black shame and healing.
You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience by Tarana Burke & Brene Brown