#Metoo founder still work­ing

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - NATION / WORLD -

Not long ago, Tarana Burke took the podium in a ho­tel ball­room full of ad­mir­ers — a sce­nario that’s be­come some­what fa­mil­iar this past year — and told a fa­vorite child­hood tale about the time she was forced to run a three-legged race with a cousin who wasn’t, like her, com­pet­i­tive or ath­letic.

She wanted a dif­fer­ent part­ner, be­cause she didn’t want to lose. But her grand­fa­ther told her sternly:

“We don’t leave any­body be­hind.” And so she ran the race with that cousin, and lost, but learned a mem­o­rable les­son about tak­ing care of those less pow­er­ful.

Burke took that les­son into her ca­reer as an ac­tivist and or­ga­nizer, es­pe­cially her work with sur­vivors of sex­ual vi­o­lence — work that led her to coin the phrase “Me Too,” more than a decade be­fore it ex­ploded as a global hash­tag and a slo­gan for a sweep­ing so­cial move­ment.

Now, with more vis­i­bil­ity than she ever dreamed pos­si­ble, Burke finds her­self in an­other race — to get the next phase of her own #Metoo work up and run­ning be­fore the spotlight dims. And an im­por­tant part of that, she says, is to put the fo­cus back where it started — be­fore Har­vey We­in­stein and the movie stars and red car­pets — on sur­vivors, es­pe­cially women and girls of color, who she says have al­ways been dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­pacted by sex­ual vi­o­lence.

How do you take a cul­tural mo­ment with a pow­er­ful mantra, and turn it into a sus­tain­able, work­ing move­ment? That’s what Burke, 44, is con­cen­trat­ing on now, nine months into the #Metoo era. She’s spend­ing the sum­mer work­ing on fi­nal plans for pro­gram­ming at “me too.,” her or­ga­ni­za­tion that’s housed at the Brook­lyn­based Girls for Gen­der Eq­uity, the non­profit where she’s a se­nior di­rec­tor. The im­me­di­ate goal: Launch­ing a new on­line com­mu­nity in the fall, full of re­sources for sur­vivors across the coun­try.

“I sus­pect that in a year or two, it won’t be as news­wor­thy,” she says. “The thing that WILL be news­wor­thy will be the ways that we’re mov­ing the nee­dle to end sex­ual vi­o­lence.”

Evan Agos­tini / In­vi­sion / Associated Press

So­cial ac­tivist Tarana Burke, founder of the #Metoo move­ment, at­tends the Time 100 Gala cel­e­brat­ing the 100 most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in the world April 24 in New York.

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