Me Too movement founder discusses the importance of community support for survivors
On Thursday, Feb. 7, over 1,000 individuals gathered at the Sacramento State University Union Ballroom to listen and support the Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke. This event was organized by UNIQUE, a student-run entertainment group based at Sacramento State, in support of Black History Month and the Me Too movement.
Tarana Burke was born in 1973 in the Bronx, New York and has dedicated her life to social activism and establishing a dialogue about domestic violence and sexual assault. In her speech, Burke shared the origin of the movement and the personal experiences that prompted her to speak up about these issues. Burke emphasized the importance of the community in supporting survivors of sexual assault and called the audience to begin a dialogue about sexual violence and sexual assault.
Melissa Muganzo, the Sacramento State Pride Center coordinator and a UC Davis alumna, interviewed and introduced Tarana Burke prior to her appearance. As a community and youth leader, Muganzo understands first-hand the importance of the community in addressing sexual assault.
“[Burke] makes sure people understand that sexual violence and sexual assault are community problems, and it is going to take the community to fix them” Muganzo said.
Many remember the Me Too movement by the hashtag #metoo, which went viral in October 2017. While Burke celebrates the widespread recognition brought on by this internet trend, she is discouraged by its lack of permanence in the media. A “trend” implies a fleeting nature, and Burke stressed that the issue of sexual assault is not temporary and will continue to be a global issue.
“As Burke said, the hashtag is a great resource for tracking numbers and galvanizing, but at the end of the day it is about the grass roots groundwork that is being done,” Muganzo said.
Sacramento State fourth-year sociology major Hadiyah Owens agreed with Muganzo, arguing that the Me Too movement must remain relevant, especially in a social media-run society.
“It is all about doing the work on the ground, not just saying or retweeting something,” Owens said. “It is about being there, being active and making a difference.”
Owens believes that Burke’s presence at Sacramento State is a step in the right direction for campus culture.
“Sac State is starting to become a much more progressive campus and having speakers like Burke really unites the whole community under the same understanding that these are important conversations to have,” Owens said.
The strength of the Sacramento community became apparent when Sacramento community activist Mone’t Ha-Siri sought guidance from Burke. Ha-Siri is a black rights and women’s rights activist and the founder of the Black Arts Matter movement based in Sacramento. While Burke was taking questions, Ha-Siri called out to Burke, asking how to continue fighting for justice while not feeling supported by her community. Burke told Ha-Siri to stand in the back of the room so she could be sought out by those looking to fight injustice in the Sacramento area. Shortly after, there were crowds of people standing with Ha-Siri.
“People came up to me and told me they were in my corner,” Ha-Siri said. “I feel reinvigorated after having felt silenced, unheard and invisible for so long.”
As a Sacramento native, Ha-Siri feels that college students have a significant role to play in bettering their communities. Having events like this on college campuses, Ha-Siri believes, is an important reminder for young people to take responsibility and action.
“Many of the people here are people who can vote, can make policy changes and can truly decide what the future is going to look like,” Ha-Siri said. “We need to make these changes now, and this is the generation that is going to do it.”
Owens believes that having activists speak on college campuses makes information more accessible and students more inclined to support a movement.
“I think when people know where movements come from, they are more inclined to do the work,” Owens said.
Throughout her speech, Burke continually emphasized the importance of community in supporting survivors. She cautioned the audience against trying to change minds but rather prompted them to join together and unify with like-minded individuals. In doing so, Burke argued those who care about protecting their communities are also protecting themselves. Muganzo, Ha-Siri and Owens all believe that this event is what Sacramento needed to spark a dialogue about sexual assault and to unify members of the community.
“Tarana Burke lit a fire across the world and gave a voice to survivors,” Ha-Siri said. “However, in order for a global shift to happen, we need to start with our own communities.”
Written by: Miki Wayne — firstname.lastname@example.org