First, she was a survivor: Burke of #MeToo tells her story

“Maybe that won’t work.”

Tarana Burke was thinking about it when she first learned in October 2017 that the phrase “Me Too” suddenly spread online after a shocking revelation about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. rice field.

It was the word she had worked with survivors of sexual violence for years. And she worried that it could be adopted or misused to turn into a mere hashtag at the moment of ruining social media enthusiasm and the hard work she did.

After all, it worked. Actor Alyssa Milano asked victims of sexual assault and harassment to share a story or just say #MeToo, with hundreds of thousands on the first day. But Burke’s fears didn’t come true, and her move began in a way she never dreamed of.

“I had never dreamed so big,” she told The Associated Press in an interview. “I thought I had big and high goals, and I wasn’t dreaming big enough.”

As the #MeToo movement, a social valuation that began in 2017, celebrates its fourth anniversary, 48-year-old Burke publishes a very personal, often live memoir of his childhood in Bronx, New York City. Did. Activism, and the beginning of #MeToo. She also provides a vivid explanation of how she was raped when she was only seven years old. This is an event that deeply shaped her future. She talked to AP prior to the release of this week’s book.

AP: Why was it time for this memoir?

Burke: People would think this is a book about going to the Golden Globe Awards and meeting many celebrities and many powerful men who have influenced their lives by #MeToo. I want to tell another story. My story is normal and extraordinary. It’s the story of many other little black girls, and the story of so many young women. We do not pay attention to the subtle differences in what survival looks like, how sexual violence feels, and how it affects our lives. So I just felt it was important. This is a story that has grown in me for over 40 years. It was time to give a house outside my body.

AP: What message would you like to send to other women or girls who have experienced rape or sexual assault like you?

Burke: Their experience is not unique and they are not the only ones. It feels really isolated, especially when dealing with sexual violence. I really want to convey the message that you are not alone. You are normal and what happened to you is not normal. It doesn’t do anything wrong with you.

AP: You’re writing about what happened to you and how you felt both guilty.

Burke: Shame is insidious. It consumes everything. It can go into every corner of your life. “This is not your shame. This is not your burden.”

AP: An important issue going forward is the intersection of #MeToo and race. Have you made progress as a society in that respect?

Burke: We’re not moving enough. It became even more apparent during the racial calculations that the country found itself last year or so. People can’t connect the two. Really, this is about moving humanity forward. It’s all about liberation. Therefore, the life of a black man is important. Women and people must have physical independence. We need to live in a world that considers the environment in which we live and the actual space. All of this has to do with how we coexist as humans. And we must recognize that these systems of repression, in which we all live, have different effects on us. I am a black man, a woman, and a survivor. And they all exist at the same time.

AP: The very raw part of this book explores how you felt ugly when you were young. You had to navigate those emotions. Did this experience help you to parent your own child?

Burke: I was very worried about Kaia’s self-esteem. But then Kaia turned out to be this beautiful kid, a physically beautiful kid. And when she was still in middle school, she came to me and said, “I want Hannah Montana’s nose,” and the kids bothered them because they thought they were ugly. And I’m just awesome, it doesn’t matter what you look like physically. People will find a way to dismantle you. If they see vulnerabilities and your shining part, they will take the lowest hanging fruit and try to rob you of it.

AP: When the #MeToo exploded in 2017, you explained that you were very afraid of your movements, the work you did. How did you overcome that concern?

Burke: Over time, it became clear that what I should do, whatever this assignment was, was given to me, it was clearly an assignment for me. So when I talk about how the world and the media describe #MeToo, what I’ve created hasn’t really changed. I say this in the book: Selma’s little black girl and Hollywood’s white woman really need the same thing. And I realized that no one could rob me of it. I’m really comfortable. It may not look like October 2017. But what happened in October 2017 was a phenomenal moment that you shouldn’t try to duplicate, so it’s okay. You need to build on it and try to do other things. So I don’t have that fear anymore. And it was an incredible learning journey.

This combination of photos shows the cover art of “Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement” on the left and a portrait of the writer Tarana Burke taken at his home in Baltimore on October 13, 2020. increase.

First, she was a survivor: Burke of #MeToo tells her story

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