Tarana Burke is a civil rights activist who was the original founder of the “Me Too” movement, which she started in 2006. She launched the movement over a decade ago to aid underprivileged women of color affected by sexual abuse. She was inspired after bonding with a young girl during a youth camp hosted by Just Be Inc., a nonprofit she founded that’s “focused on the health, well-being, and wholeness of young women of color,” the site reads. It became a global phenomenon that raised awareness about sexual harassment, abuse, and assault in society in 2017.
Tarana Burke was born in The Bronx, NY. She grew up in a low-income, working-class family in a housing project. Tarana was raped and sexually assaulted both as a child and a teenager. Her mother supported her recovery from these violent acts and encouraged her to be involved in the community. In 2017 Burke and other influential female activists were named “the silence breakers” by Time magazine. She currently serves at the Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn as its senior director.
Tarana was talking with a girl at her camp who revealed that her mother’s boyfriend had been sexually abusing her. Burke was trying to find the right words to help empathize with the many women and young girls who have shared their experiences with her. Burke has shared the message with survivors everywhere: “You’re not alone. This happened to me too.” From this point forward, “me too” helped Burke shape her life-long campaign for activism to help girls and women who have experienced sexual harassment, abuse, or assault. In an interview with CNN, Burke stated: “On one side, it’s a bold declarative statement that ‘I’m not ashamed’ and ‘I’m not alone.’ On the other side, it’s a statement from survivor to survivor that says ‘I see you, I hear you, I understand you and I’m here for you or I get it.'”
In October of 2017, actress Alyssa Milano put out a tweet inviting those who have experienced sexual harassment, abuse, or assault into a global fight for recognition:
This tweet went out a few days after the investigation into sexual harassment claims against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. In a matter of hours, #MeToo went viral all over social media with millions of people sharing their own stories of sexual assault. 40,000 people had responded to Milano’s tweet directly and more than 12 million people had used the hashtag across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Tarana was surprised to see her phrase “me too” in a tweet by Milano and even more shocked by the enormous overnight following it received. She never thought in her wildest dreams that her work from over a decade ago would help millions of survivors worldwide. For Tarana, it’s not about accolades but more so about awareness.”It’s not about a viral campaign for me. It’s about a movement,” Tarana told CNN.