Published On: October 16, 2020 04:15 PM NPT By: Associated Press

On #MeToo anniversary, leaders say focus is on inequality

On #MeToo anniversary, leaders say focus is on inequality


When #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke thinks about the group’s future as the world celebrates its anniversary, her vision is clear. It predates the moment that most people know — when the #MeToo hashtag went viral three years ago on Oct. 15, 2017, sparking a global conversation about sexual harassment and assault.

For her, that mission emerged years earlier — in 2006, when Burke, after a career of community service, began working directly with survivors, many of whom were young Black girls and children of color.

“It sort of triggered something in me because I had experienced sexual violence myself as a child,” Burke said. “What would my life have been like if somebody had intervened at 12, 14 or 16, even just to say that I deserve healing, and that I deserve wellness and wholeness and joy?”

“And so it started off trying to bring those messages, that idea of healing into these young women’s lives and using the power of empathy,” she said. As the #MeToo movement marks the third year since it received global recognition, Burke is working to make sure it remains inclusive and reclaims its original intent: A focus on marginalized voices and experiences.

She sees that path forward through Dani Ayers, a 39-year-old Black woman who quietly, yet with a bold vision, transitioned into becoming the movement’s CEO in July after joining the organization in 2018.

In a year marked by a nationwide reckoning over systemic racism and inequities that have disproportionately impacted Black Americans, the #MeToo movement is now jointly led by two Black women keenly aware of the inequality that has long existed in America — something they find both empowering and challenging.

“I think it’s a testament and it’s a representation of the fact that there are many movements that have been started by Black women. The Black Lives Matter movement was also started by Black women,” Ayers told the Associated Press in her first joint interview with Burke.

“It’s an opportunity to shine a light. We are absolutely centering Black women and girls, people of color, queer, trans, disabled folks in our work because we know that solving and interrupting the issue of sexual violence in those communities means ending sexual violence everywhere.”

Several events are planned to mark the third anniversary, including the announcement of the new leadership structure and a survey of survivors that Burke and Ayers expect will reignite momentum behind the movement. Their goal is to create a global network of organizations united behind the movement to end sexual violence.

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