Long before #MeToo went viral in 2017, there was the ‘me too.’ Movement. In fact, Tarana Burke, veteran organizer, activist, and movement builder, began this work in 2006 in order to help survivors of sexual violence—particularly Black women and girls—find ways to heal.
When #MeToo took off on Twitter, many survivors used it as a means to help tell their stories, thus breaking the stigma of silence most survivors of sexual violence are forced to carry. It has been two years since Burke and her epic movement were thrust into the spotlight—a place Burke tells ESSENCE she never wanted to be in.
“I recognize the need for me to stay visible in a particular type of way in order for people to talk about the movement. So I’ve embraced the visibility a little bit more now. I still don’t think there’s a need for a celebrity in this work, but I think that a person who is visible and vocal and consistent is definitely necessary,” Burke told ESSENCE.
And Burke has embraced her role in her own movement, realizing that it’s up to her to keep the momentum going. “Two years later, we have this amazing, global platform now to talk about sexual violence, to deal with sexual violence and to galvanize survivors. I’m excited about where we are. I wish we were a little further, culturally. I wish that the conversation around what the ‘me too.’ movement is, was different,” Tarana Burke shared.
Hearing the hashtag, and the movement, transformed into a verb in pop culture, i.e., “Me Too-ed,” is upsetting for Burke. She says that it makes the movement about taking men down, which is not what’s happening, nor is it her intention. She said, “It’s so diminishing to the people who have labored to come forward to even say, ‘me too.'”
Check out the video above to see what Tarana Burke hopes for the movement going forward and what advice she’d like to offer Black men.