Ignited by the sexual abuse allegations against film executive Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo hashtag flourished on social media as women recounted their personal experiences with sexual assault to show their solidarity with the victims who came forward. Although the hashtag gained a lot of traction in recent weeks, what many people may not know is that the #MeToo movement was birthed by a Black woman nearly a decade ago, the HuffPost reported.
Tarana Burke, the founder of a youth organization called Just Be Inc., started the “Me Too” campaign in 2007 as an avenue to provide support for those who have experienced sexual assault in underserved communities. Burke, 44, is a survivor of sexual abuse and said she launched the campaign to connect with women of color who have been through similar experiences. “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,” she said in an interview.
According to the University of Kansas, studies show that nearly one in five Black women are the victims of sexual assault in the United States and only one woman of color out of 15 will report her rape.
Last week, after tweeting out a call to action for women to share their stories of sexual assault using the #MeToo hashtag, several media outlets credited actress Alyssa Milano for starting the movement, the HuffPost reported. Many people accused the outlets of appropriating the movement, sparking conversations about race, gender and how they intersected with feminism. After it was brought to her attention that Burke was the originator, Milano took to Twitter on Monday to share information about the original project with her followers.
Burke said that she was humbled by the fact that her idea connected to and empowered so many women on social media. In a series of tweets, she delved into why she initially created the grassroots campaign. “The point of the work we’ve done over the last decade with the ‘me too movement’ is to let women, particularly young women of color know that they are not alone – it’s a movement,” Burke tweeted. “It’s beyond a hashtag. It’s the start of a larger conversation and a movement for radical community healing.”
Black women have been at the forefront of social movements for centuries and its good to see them getting the credit that they deserve this time around. What are your thoughts about the #MeToo movement? Sound off in the comments.