TARANA BURKE

ELLE (UK) - - Contents -

The woman be­hind Me Too on scal­ing it up for 2O19

TARANA BURKE WASN’T tagge­d­i­n­ac­tor Alyssa Mi­lano’s orig­i­nal #MeToo tweet — the one that urged ev­ery­one who’d ever been sex­u­ally ha­rassed or as­saulted to re­spond ‘me too’ in or­der to ‘give peo­ple a sense of the mag­ni­tude of the prob­lem’. But when it went vi­ral last Oc­to­ber, with 12 mil­lion us­ing the hash­tag, Burke’s phone be­gan blow­ing up. That’s be­cause she’d spent the bet­ter part of the pre­vi­ous decade work­ing on a cam­paign aimed at sur­vivors of sex­ual vi­o­lence called the Me Too Move­ment. Mere hours af­ter Mi­lano’s mis­sive, Burke posted a clip of her­self speak­ing in 2O14 about the move­ment. ‘I think I helped peo­ple un­der­stand that it was about em­pa­thy as well as vis­i­bil­ity,’ she said. ‘It needed to be more than a hash­tag.’

To­day, it’s much more, thanks in large part to Burke’s tire­less work. ‘Sur­vivors de­serve to be healed, but I also be­lieve we have the an­swers,’ she ex­plains. ‘Peo­ple have been do­ing this work for decades, and, as suc­cess­ful as they’ve been, I want to ex­pand their reach.’

1. I CAME FROM A VERY PO­LIT­I­CALLY CON­SCIOUS FAM­ILY. My grand­fa­ther would drive us to Har­lem to buy tapes of John Hen­rik Clarke and other black his­to­ri­ans. He’d give me all these heavy books to read. Then the 21st Cen­tury Youth Lead­er­ship Move­ment reached out to my school, and even at 14 I was like, ‘This is what I need. I don’t want to just read books about protest — I’m go­ing to get into it.’

2. PEO­PLE SAY ‘CONGRATUL ATIONS’, AND I WANT TO SAY, ‘FOR WHAT?’ Are you con­grat­u­lat­ing me be­cause you’ve seen me on TV? Be­ing fa­mous wasn’t a bucket-list item for me — but the level of vis­i­bil­ity I have now is good only in that it al­lows me to raise funds and am­plify the work I’m do­ing.

3. I STARTED THE ME TOO MOVE­MENT IN 2OO5, BUT I HAD THE IDEA BACK IN 1996, WHEN A CHILD AT SUM­MER CAMP SHARED HER STORY WITH ME. I was only 22 at the time, I wasn’t a ther­a­pist or so­cial worker, and I was scared of say­ing the wrong thing; I didn’t want to mess her up. So I pan­icked and didn’t say any­thing. As soon as she left, I re­alised that wasn’t right; you have to en­gage in some way when some­body you care about opens up to you. It would have been enough to at least tell her that it had hap­pened to me, too.

4. I DREAMT FOR ME TOO TO BE A SIG­NAL BE­TWEEN SUR­VIVORS… That you’d see some­one with a [Me Too] bumper sticker or key chain and you’d be like, ‘Oh, it’s an­other sur­vivor,’ and there’d be this si­lent sup­port. I couldn’t imag­ine a time in which we would talk about sex­ual vi­o­lence as openly as we do now. It opens up a whole world of pos­si­bil­i­ties.

FIVE THINGS you NEED to KNOW ABOUT TARANA BURKE

5. NOW I’M COM­PLETELY FO­CUSED ON SCAL­ING IT UP. I want to cre­ate [a world] where sur­vivors can go to craft their own heal­ing jour­ney. For a while, every­body and their mother was telling me, ‘You need to do a GoFundMe.’ But you don’t build a move­ment that way; that’s not sus­tain­able longterm fund­ing. We need to be some­thing that will be around for years to come, some­thing I can even­tu­ally turn over to some bril­liant 28-year-old, and she won’t have the re­spon­si­bil­ity and bur­den of hav­ing to start rais­ing money from scratch. Tarana Burke ap­pears on the 2O18 ELLE List, pro­duced in as­so­ci­a­tion with THE OUTNET.COM

SHE FOUNDED the ME TOO MOVE­MENT 12 YEARS AGO, BUT the WORLD DIDN’T NO­TICE un­til HOL­LY­WOOD STEPPED UP. ELLE RE­VEALS WHY THIS CIVIL RIGHTS AC­TIVIST is SCAL­ING IT UP FOR 2O19

Jacket, £111, ROBERT RO­DRIGUEZ at THE OUTNET.COM. Jew­ellery, Tarana’s ownWords byPho­to­graph byLAU­REN WATERMANDOUGAL MARTHURac

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