Tarana Burke, creator of the #metoo movement speaks at Iowa State on Monday night

Tarana Burke shares her experiences helping women of color who have gone through sexual abuse or exploitation in their lives. Burke told stories about what she’s been through and seen on March 26 in Stephens Auditorium. 

Caitlin Yamada

Tarana Burke walked on stage to greet more than 800 people in the Scheman Building.

Burke is the original creator if the “Me Too” movement that was popularized in 2017 with the hashtag “#MeToo.”

Burke said what people have been hearing about the “Me Too” movement is wrong and how people have characterized the movement is wrong.

Burke knew as a woman of color, she was and is at jeopardy of having her work erased. But a major point in the movement is the actresses who have been popularizing the movement through social media and speaking about their sexual assault experiences have not been taking credit for the creation.

Looking at the history of the Me Too movement, Burke said she reflects on one moment in 1996 with a girl she calls Heaven. When Heaven confided in Burke about being sexually assaulted, at the time she said she didn’t know what to say but now she wishes that she would have said “this happened to me too.”

“I felt like I let her down,” Burke said. “It didn’t feel like enough and I never saw her again.”

Being raised as an activist in the Bronx, New York, Burke had many influences that molded her into the person she is now. Her parents were an average working family, but they were “pretty radical.”

She had historical knowledge about who she was as a woman of color and knowledge of her cultural legacy, but this knowledge did not give her a way to do something about the problems she saw, according to her lecture.

While in high school, she joined the 21st Century Leaders which was founded by veterans of previous movements who were looking for a way to pass on their legacies.

The 21st Century Leaders Movement gave her a space to be herself and the skills to build upon what her family gave her.

Years later, Burke would work for the 21st Century Leaders which is where she met Heaven.

At the 21st Century Leaders meetings, once a week they would hold a program called “sister to sister, brother to brother.”

Every year during these conversations, she would see at least one girl share her story about being sexually assaulted.

“Even though I was a survivor, I was oblivious to it,” Burke said.

In 2006, Burke founded Just BE Inc. to provide space for women of color to understand that they have a deep worthiness just because they exist, according to Burke.

Burke believes there are steps that need to be taken now. The movement needs to be more about helping survivors and creating spaces for “radical community healing.”

Burke also talked about creating sustained conversations so people can digest what is happening and survivors can know they are not alone while also interrupting sexual violence wherever it lives.