#Metoo founder still working
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.”
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.