Inclusivity and thriving are the by-words of Tarana Burke, founder of the “Me Too” movement.
Burke was one of the “silence breakers” named by Time magazine as Person of the Year in 2017, as a result of rising awareness about the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. Burke will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Gallogly Events Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs as part of their ninth annual UCCS Significant Speaker event. Five of the previous Significant Speaker events have sold out.
As reported in the UCCS newspaper The Scribe, the decision to reach out to Burke was a natural one for a group of convened students, but the decision had to be made quickly to secure a place in her schedule.
Director of Student Activities and Community Service Stephen Cucchiara said a group of five to ten students from clubs and organizations on campus brainstormed topics they would like to hear discussed in a lecture. When “Me Too” emerged at the top of their list, Burke was just entering the college market. Cucchiara and the group jumped at the chance to invite her to speak in Colorado Springs.
According to Cucchiara, before Burke’s schedule filled up for 2019, “We were one of the second to last states that she was able to book.”
Burke has spoken at more than 100 colleges. She said on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah that she founded the Me Too movement in 2006 to “speak healing” into the lives of survivors of sexual violence, to “let them know healing was possible, (and) to let them know they were not alone.”
Burke clarified in the interview that, “It’s not a woman’s movement either, that’s a misconception, it’s a movement for survivors.”
The Me Too movement went viral in October 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano took to Twitter with an idea she said was suggested by a friend. She wrote, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
The resulting use of the hashtag #MeToo swamped social media.
Milano was unaware at the time of Burke’s work. When Milano discovered the years-old effort, she then acknowledged the earlier use of the phrase on Twitter, writing, “I was just made aware of an earlier #MeToo movement, and the origin story is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring.”
In a Refinery29 interview in January, Burke said sexual violence affects everyone.
“However you identify across the spectrum of gender, race, and religion, sexual violence affects your life. Either you know a survivor, or you are one, or both,” Burke said.
Burke has been described as a civil rights activist and social justice worker. She began her career working with marginalized youth and is now senior director of Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn, which “strives to help young women of color increase their overall development through various programs and classes.”
Through the Me Too organization, Burke organizes workshops to help improve policies at schools, workplaces, and places of worship, and focuses on helping victims not blame themselves for sexual violence.
The Colorado Springs Feminists are hosting a social hour on campus after Burke’s talk. A representative of the group confirmed they are looking into the possibility of also hosting an event later in the year using the Me Too website toolkit for “a 360-degree day of healing, empowerment and strength,” which is about bringing together various members in a community to build connections and have conversations.
Burke’s lecture is open to the public. Tickets are $2 for UCCS students, UCCS faculty/staff and military members at the University Center Information Desk. Tickets for community members are $5 and can be purchased at uccs.edu/speaker and at the University Center Information Desk.