Tarana J. Burke has been working at the intersection of racial justice and gender equity for nearly three decades. Fueled by a commitment to interrupt sexual violence and other systemic issues disproportionately impacting marginalized people- particularly 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 development organization called 21st Century. She launched initiatives around issues like racial discrimination, 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 upon moving to Selma, Alabama to work for 21st Century. She encountered dozens of black girls who were sharing stories of sexual violence and abuse, stories of which she personally identified. Tarana realized too many girls were suffering through abuse without access to resources, safe spaces and support. So in 2007, she created JustBe, Inc., an organization committed to the empowerment and wellness of black girls. The ‘me too.’ Movement was born shortly thereafter as an entry to healing for survivors and a way for young people to share their stories. 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 body autonomy. Tarana used her platform to share the longstanding belief that healing isn’t a destination but a journey, which has touched and inspired millions of survivors who previously lived with the pain, shame and trauma of their experience in isolation. Her steadfast commitment is what led her to receive numerous accolades including 2017 TIME Person of the Year, the 2019 Sydney Peace Prize, among many other honors and recognitions.
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