Portrait of Tarana Burke
Image credit: Penn State

Tarana Burke is a civil rights activist, known for being the first to use the phrase “me too” to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault.

Born and raised in New York, Burke started her activism work early, becoming involved in working to improve the lives of young girls living in marginalized communities as a teenager. At 14 she joined the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement, whose purpose was to create grassroots community organizers. Burke went to college at Alabama State University then transferred to Auburn University. While attending Auburn University, she continued her activism and work as an organizer.

After graduating college, she moved to Selma, Alabama where she continued doing youth work through the Selma chapter of 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement. There she developed an African-centered all-girls program titled “Just Be,” supporting black girls aged 12-18 with the goal to “ensure that young women move through adolescence and into adulthood with a strong sense of self worth and healthy self esteem.”

While directing Just Be, Burke encountered many stories of sexual violence against the girls. She knew there was a need for resources and support, but after some research, realized there weren’t enough to help the girls fully and truly heal. In 2006, she created a Me Too MySpace page – long before there was such a thing as a hashtag.

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. Time named Burke, among a group of other prominent female activists dubbed “the silence breakers”, as the Time Person of the Year for 2017. She is currently Senior Director at Girls for Gender Equity.

(Source for much of the above is the Wikipedia entry about Tarana Burke).

As she’s been in the news a lot lately, here’s some more good articles, a video and a podcast about her you might be interested in: