A black woman named Tarana Burke is the original creator of the #MeToo campaign that has recently taken over social media.
Burke, founder of youth organization Just Be Inc., created the “Me Too” campaign in 2007 long before hashtags even existed. The 44-year-old told Ebony Magazine that she created the campaign as a grass-roots movement to reach sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities.
“It wasn’t built to be a viral campaign or a hashtag that is here today and forgotten tomorrow,” Burke told Ebony on Monday. “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.”
The campaign recently turned into a hashtag after actress Alyssa Milano wrote a call-out on Twitter asking followers to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault using the phrase “Me too.” While Milano did not state that she created the campaign, many media outlets credited the actress for originating the hashtag.
Burke told Ebony that it’s “powerful” to see the hashtag go viral. “What’s happening now is powerful,” she said. “And I salute it and the women who have disclosed but the power of using ‘me too’ has always been in the fact that it can be a conversation starter or the whole conversation ― but it was us talking to us.”
On Monday, Milano tweeted that she was “made aware of an earlier #MeToo movement” and linked to Burke’s story.
In a Tuesday morning interview with Democracy Now, Burke discussed the origins of the “Me Too” movement and why it’s still so relevant today. As a survivor of sexual violence herself, Burke said she used the “me too” phrase as a way to connect with other survivors, specifically young women of color.
”[I was] trying to find a succinct way to show empathy,” Burke said. “Me too is so powerful because somebody had said it to me and it changed the trajectory of my healing process once I heard that. Me too was about reaching the places that other people wouldn’t go, bringing messages and words and encouragement to survivors of sexual violence where other people wouldn’t be talking about it.”
Burke tweeted her thoughts about the hashtag going viral on Sunday night, writing: “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.”
Read Burke’s full thread below.
The #MeToo movement highlights a common problem: Feminist movements are often whitewashed when they’re brought into mainstream conversations. Women of color are often overlooked and left out of the very conversations they create.
As the #MeToo hashtag went viral, many people thanked Burke and tweeted their support of her movement.
Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Alicia Garza thanked Burke, tweeting: “Thank you @TaranaBurke for bringing us this gift of #MeToo almost 10 years ago. Still powerful today.”
Other Twitter users gave credit to Burke for #MeToo and asked media to stop crediting white women for the work of women of color. ”
#MeToo was started by Tarana Burke. Stop erasing black women,” Twitter user Aura Bogado wrote.
Scroll below to see other Twitter users’ messages to Burke.
Head over to Twitter to read more #MeToo stories.