Tarana Burke sure knows how to give a riveting acceptance speech.
“Black women are magic and we rock, mostly because we are resilient. We have a long history of taking what we have to make what we need. That’s how this movement was born,” Burke, creator of the Me Too movement, said as she accepted the Community Change Agent award during Sunday night’s Black Girls Rock awards show.
Burke founded the anti-sexual violence movement in 2007 as part of her work helping kids in underprivileged communities. The campaign gained force as a global movement in October after actress Alyssa Milano wrote a call-out on Twitter asking followers to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault using the phrase “Me too.”
Burke, 44, said she’s had one hell of a year as the movement has taken off, bringing down many powerful men, including Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein, after sexual misconduct allegations.
“So much has happened but what you all have solidified for me — and by you all, I mean black women — is that no one can take what was meant for us,” she said.
“It can be used by everybody and still be ours,” Burke continued. “Don’t opt yourself out of what was started for you because the media isn’t acknowledging your hurt and your pain and your stories. They never have. This is your movement, too.”
When the Me Too hashtag first took off on social media last fall, many media outlets credited Milano, a white actress, with creating the movement. The misstep highlighted a common problem: Many feminist movements are often whitewashed when they’re brought into mainstream conversations, overlooking women of color who created them.
Burke reminded every woman at Black Girls Rock that the Me Too movement is theirs, even if the media doesn’t recognize it.
“We have the power to move the needle around sexual violence in our community together. We don’t need validation from anyone to do that work, we can validate ourselves,” she said. “I’m here to say to you black women and girls that you deserve safety and you deserve protection, and I’ve committed my life to ensuring that you have it.”