Tarana J. Burke has been working at the intersection of racial justice, arts and culture, anti-violence and gender equity for nearly three decades. Fueled by a commitment to interrupt systemic issues disproportionately impacting marginalized people, like sexual violence, particularly for Black women and girls, Tarana has created and led campaigns that have brought awareness to the harmful legacies surrounding communities of color. Specifically, her work to end sexual violence has not only exposed the ugly truths of sexism and spoke truth to power, it has also increased access to resources and support for survivors and paved a way forward for everyone to find their place in the movement.
A proud native of the Bronx, NY, Tarana's passion for community organizing began in the late 1980s; when as a young girl, she joined a youth leadership organization called 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement. She led and participated in initiatives around issues like police brutality, housing inequality and economic justice across the city. That work, coupled with a desire to deepen her academic education and organizing skills led her to Alabama State University, a historically Black institution. Her organizing and advocacy work continued throughout college and remains a pillar of her professional life.
Her career took an intentional turn toward supporting survivors of sexual violence while living in Selma, Alabama and working for 21st Century. She encountered dozens of Black girls with stories of sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation, stories with which she personally identified. Tarana realized too many girls were trying their best to survive without access to resources, safe spaces and support. So, in 2004, she created Just Be, Inc., an organization committed to the empowerment and wellness of Black and Brown girls. The ‘me too.’ Movement was born shortly thereafter as an entry to healing for survivors and a mechanism for developing survivor leaders.
In 2017, when ‘me too.’ as a hashtag (#metoo) went viral, Tarana emerged as a global leader in the evolving conversation around sexual violence. She placed the focus back on survivors and the need for survivor-centered, survivor-led solutions. Her theory of 'empowerment through empathy' is changing the way the world thinks and talks about sexual violence, consent and bodily autonomy. Tarana uses her platform to share the messages that healing is possible, survivors are leaders and ending sexual violence has to be a social justice priority, which has touched and inspired millions of survivors who previously lived with the pain, shame and trauma of their experience in isolation. In 2018, Tarana founded ‘me too.’ International, a global non-profit organization that serves as a container for the vision and framework for the ‘me too.’ Movement. The organization serves as a convener, innovator, thought leader, and organizer across the mainstream and the grassroots to address systems that allow for the proliferation of sexual violence, specifically in Black, queer, trans, disabled, and all communities of color.
Her steadfast commitment is what led her to receive numerous accolades including 2017 TIME Person of the Year, 2018 TIME 100 Most Influential People, the 2019 Sydney Peace Prize and Harvard Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award, and in 2020 being named one of USA Today’s Women of the Decade among many other honors and recognitions.