Long before #MeToo became a viral online campaign in 2017, social justice activist Tarana Burke quietly was working to give voice to people who had been sexually harassed and assaulted.
She called her movement Me Too. But it was only after actress Alyssa Milano attached a hashtag to the phrase and posted it on Twitter that Burke’s decade-long crusade burst into the international spotlight.
Burke will be on the Sacramento State campus Thursday evening, Feb. 7, to discuss the history and impact of the movement, which has spurred millions of people to share their stories about sexual violence.
She is scheduled to speak at 7:30 p.m. in the University Union Ballroom. The lecture is part of UNIQUE, a Sac State volunteer group that brings cultural events and entertainment to campus.
In 2007, Burke created a nonprofit group, Just Be Inc., that focuses on young women of color and helps them overcome the fallout of sexual harassment and assault. The organization seeks to help girls get “past their risk and around their circumstances” and put them on a path to success, according to its website.
Me Too is one of its centerpieces.
The Me Too movement “started in the deepest, darkest place in my soul,” when a young girl told Burke about the sexual abuse she endured, she writes on the site. Burke, too, was a survivor of sexual assault. But “I could not muster the energy to tell her that I understood, that I connected, that I could feel her pain,” she writes. “I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper, ‘me too.’”
After the girl left, Burke decided to commit herself to helping girls overcome such trauma. And so, the Me Too movement was born.
The movement’s goal is to start conversations that amplify the voices of survivors and spark systemic changes to protect them, she says.
Milano has said she was unaware of Burke’s organization before launching her #MeToo tweet, which followed accusations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Millions of people engaged with the hashtag across Facebook and Twitter, and the phenomenon sparked widespread conversation and debate that continues today.
Thursday’s lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, visit SacStateUNIQUE.com.
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