Meet Tarana Burke, The Black Woman Behind The #MeToo Campaign

by Yah Yah

After dozens of women came forward about being sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, Alyssa Milano issued a call out on Twitter urging her followers to share their stories of sexual assault using the #MeToo hashtag. The hashtag quickly caught fire on Social Media, being shared in more than 12 million posts on Facebook within the first 24 hours alone.

While Milano has received credit for starting the movement, the real founder of the Me Too campaign is a black woman by the name of Tarana Burke. Burke started the campaign in 2007 to support underprivileged women who are victims of sexual assault.

“It wasn’t built to be a viral campaign or a hashtag that is here today and forgotten tomorrow,” She told Ebony. “It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

When the hashtag went viral, some women of color were quick to note that until Milano’s tweet, Burke’s decade long efforts had gone unnoticed by prominent white feminists. April Reign, the woman behind the #OscarSoWhite hashtag addresses the disparity in victim treatment this way:

“White women have not been as supportive as they could have been of women of color when they experience targeted abuse and harassment.”

Burke notes that while there’s much work to be done to rectify the lack of intersectionality in feminist activism, she is grateful that the voices of the victims are being amplified through the hashtag. She believes that the Me Too campaign is “bigger” than one person, and is all about the survivors. “I think it is selfish for me to try to frame Me Too as something that I own,” she said. “It is bigger than me and bigger than Alyssa Milano. Neither one of us should be centered in this work. This is about survivors.”

Alyssa Milano reached out to Burke two days after posting the hashtag, and is hoping to collaborate. Milano also credited Burke for the campaign when she appeared on Good Morning America on Thursday.

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