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Tarana Burke is an American civil rights activist. She is known for being the first to use the phrase "Me Too", in 2006, to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society.[1] The phrase has since developed into a broader movement. Time named Burke, among a group of other prominent female activists dubbed "the silence breakers", as the Time Person of the Year for 2017.[2] She is currently Senior Director at Girls for Gender Equity.[3]

Tarana Burke
Born The Bronx, New York, United States
Nationality American
Alma mater Alabama State University, Auburn University
Occupation Activist
Organization Just Be Inc., Girls for Gender Equity
Movement Me Too



Burke was born and raised in The Bronx, New York.[4] As a teenager, she became involved in working to improve the lives of young girls living in marginalized communities.[5] At age 14 she joined the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement whose purpose was to create grassroots community organizers.[6] Burke's first organization she made through this movement was an anti-Trump protest. The protest called attention Trump's media violence against the Central Park Five who were underage black boys suspected of raping a white woman who was jogging in Central Park.[7]

Tarana went to college at Alabama State University then transferred to Auburn University. While attending Auburn University, she was labeled as a 'campus organizer' in a campus paper when describing her involvement in speaking against the annual 'Dixie Festival" in which students would dress up in antebellum clothing and celebrate the Confederacy.

After graduating college, she moved to Selma, Alabama where she continued doing youth work through the Selma chapter of 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement. It was during this Period that she realized that young girls needed 'different attention' than their male peers. She developed an African-centered all-girls program titled "Just Be".[8] The "Just Be" programs support young black girls aged 12-18. Its ultimate goal is to "ensure that young women move through adolescence and into adulthood with a strong sense of self worth and healthy self esteem." [9]

While directing "Just Be", Tarana was approached by many girls in the program with stories of sexual violence. In one instance, Tarana was told by a high school student that she was late to the program because she was due to have detention but was able to skip it by performing her dance routine in her uniform for the school dean. Tarana couldn't stand to hear these stories but thought to herself "if only I could say to these girls 'me too'".

She decided that first and foremost, these young girls should have the language to speak about these experiences. She went out into the community to find resources but soon realized that the resources and support were not enough to "help these young girls heal". In 2006, she created a Me Too MySpace page. Within a week, there were many women reaching out, saying that they were glad the page existed and were wondering how to be apart of the movement. A producer from the Simpsons contacted Tarana, funded the page, and sent 5000 t-shirts which became the first MeToo shirts.

In 2008, she moved to Philadelphia to further her work as an activist. She worked at Art Sanctuary Philadelphia as well as at other non-profits.[10]

On October 15, 2017, Tarana was notified by her friends about the MeToo hashtag being used without her credit. At first, she was terrified that her work would be "co-opted and erased" but as she followed the thread more, she noticed that women started posting their individual stories along with the hashtag. At that moment, she realized that this was her work coming to life, and she had to decide whether to be "in conflict or in service". She decided to be in service and shape the movement to make it about "empowermental empathy".

She was a consultant for the Hollywood movie Selma,[11] based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis.[12]

In 2018, she attended the 75th Golden Globe Awards as a guest of Michelle Williams.[13]


Girls for Gender EquityEdit

Burke is the 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.[14][15]

Just Be Inc.Edit

In 1997, Burke met a young girl named Heaven in Alabama who told her about being sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend. She says she didn't know what to say, and never saw the girl again. She says she wished she had said "me too." This and other incidents led Burke to found Just Be Inc., an organization that promotes the wellness of young female minorities, in 2006.[5][16] Just Be Inc. received its first grant in 2007.[5]

Me Too movementEdit

In 2017, actress Alyssa Milano started using #MeToo as an Internet hashtag in response to accusations against Harvey Weinstein and other public figures of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other abusive behavior. In October 2017, Milano acknowledged Burke's 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".[5][17] Burke has been supportive of the #MeToo hashtag.[18]

When asked if the movement should not be split into two groups—one for sexual harassment and another for sexual assault—Burke said that the movement is for both. She has said that both types of sexual misconduct can be extremely traumatizing, and it's about the trauma someone feels as opposed to trying to categorize the severity of the violence against them.[5]

Time named Burke, among a group of other prominent female activists dubbed "the silence breakers", as the Time Person of the Year for 2017.[2]

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.[4]


  1. ^ Garcia, Sandra E. (20 October 2017). "The Woman Who Created #MeToo Long Before Hashtags" – via 
  2. ^ a b "The woman behind the #MeToo movement on why she would never meet with Trump". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-12-28. 
  3. ^ "Girls for Gender Equity". 
  4. ^ a b "Tarana Burke: Me Too movement can't end with a hashtag | Elizabeth Wellington". Retrieved 2018-01-04. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Ohlheiser, Abby (19 October 2017). "The woman behind 'Me Too' knew the power of the phrase when she created it — 10 years ago". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 December 2017. 
  6. ^ "21st Century Youth Movement".  External link in |website= (help);
  7. ^ "Central Park Jogger Case".  External link in |website= (help);
  8. ^ "Just Be Organization".  External link in |website= (help);
  9. ^ "Just Be Jewels".  External link in |website= (help);
  10. ^ "The Woman Who Began the #MeToo Movement Was a Philly Activist". Philadelphia Magazine. 2017-12-06. Retrieved 2018-01-04. 
  11. ^ Nyren, Erin (2018-01-07). "Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern to Be Accompanied by Activists at Golden Globes". Variety. Retrieved 2018-01-11. 
  12. ^ Trumbore, Dave (May 20, 2014). "Production Begins on Paramount's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Biopic, SELMA, Starring David Oyelowo". Retrieved May 30, 2014. 
  13. ^ CNWN Collection. "Golden Globes 2018: How to Support the Activists' Causes". Allure. Retrieved 2018-01-11. 
  14. ^ "Girls for Gender Equity". Girls for Gender Equity. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  15. ^ "'Silence Breakers' Like GGE's Tarana Burke named TIME Person of the Year". Girls for Gender Equity. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  16. ^ "justbeinc". Retrieved 2017-11-28. 
  17. ^ Parker, Najja. "Who is Tarana Burke? Meet the woman who started the Me Too movement a decade ago". ajc. 
  18. ^ "Tarana Burke, the activist behind 'Me Too,' on where the movement goes from here - The Boston Globe". 

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