“me too.” creator kicks off spring lecture series

Tarana Burke most recently spoke against sexual and domestic violence in Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE.

Before “me too.” turned into a viral hashtag and social movement, it was a concept rooted in addressing sexual violence coined by Tarana Burke.

Burke will be at USF on Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Oval Theater as the first spring University Lecture Series (ULS) speaker.

The “me too.” movement was created by Burke in 2006, according to the movement’s website. Its aim was to help victims of sexual violence find ways to heal, particularly women of color from low-income communities.

In 2017, the “me too.” movement later transformed into the viral #metoo, bringing attention to victims of sexual violence across the world. This happened after actress and activist Alyssa Milano shared a tweet suggesting that victims of sexual violence respond to her by saying “me too.”  

Her tweet came after the groundbreaking allegations of sexual violence, including rape and harassment, by dozens of women against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, Milano being one of them.

However, following its virality, Burke was not initially credited with the term and movement even though she had been using it for over a decade.

Milano, later realizing that Burke actually created the term after a journalist posted a video of Burke using it, credited her, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.

The rest is history.

The “me too.” movement, criticized by some and admired by others, has nonetheless been synonymous with cultural change relating to how sexual violence is viewed and handled.

“It wasn’t built to be a viral campaign or a hashtag that is here today and forgotten tomorrow,” Burke told Ebony in 2017. “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.”

Recently, Burke also appeared in Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary series which featured multiple women and former colleagues alleging that the R&B singer committed many acts of sexual violence, including pedophilia, domestic violence and a “sex cult” in which Kelly brainwashes women and girls.

Burke spoke against Kelly in the documentary and was vocal before then condemning his alleged acts of violence against women and children. In early January, Burke told CNN that Kelly’s record label was “enabling” him.

Since then, RCA Records at Sony Music has reportedly dropped Kelly, according to multiple news outlets.

Last semester, R. Kelly visited USF and had a concert at the Yuengling Center amid protests by local supporters of the #MuteRKelly movement.

“If you talk to more SURVIVORS and less sexist businessmen maybe you’ll understand what we want,” Burke wrote in a tweet last year. “We want safety. We want healing. We want accountability. We want closure.

“We want to live a life free from shame.”