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Posted under: Race & Identity News

Tarana Burke Demands #MeToo Movement Focus On Poor Black Women And Girls

“The number one thing I hear from folks is that the #MeToo movement has forgotten us,” she said.

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#MeToo founder Tarana Burke expressed concerns poor Black and brown women are being left out of her movement. 

While speaking at the Facing Race conference in Detroit on November 10, Burke revealed some of the issues women of color have brought up about the direction of the movement, Chicago Sun-Times reports. 

Burke has dedicated her life to improving the lives of women in the workplace and beyond. Since 2006, her movement has pushed back against sexual harassment, sexual violence and rape culture. The New York Daily News reports the movement has been hijacked by high-profile celebrities, leaving out the common woman.

“The number one thing I hear from folks is that the #MeToo movement has forgotten us,” she said of Black, Hispanic and Native American women.

“Every day, we hear some version of that. But this is what I’m here to tell you: The #MeToo movement is not defined by what the media has told you. We are the movement, and so I need you to not opt out of the #Metoo movement. … I need you to reframe your work to include sexual violence. That’s how we take back the narrative. Stop giving your power away to white folks.”

A year ago, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted using the hashtag #MeToo, bringing the movement to the national stage. Many erroneously credited her for starting the movement. This mistake forced Burke to fight to become the face of her own movement.  

“This is not about awareness. It’s about action,” the 45-year-old activist said. “…With #MeToo being as big and loud as it is, we don’t need more awareness. This is about what happens after the hashtag, after the hoopla. This is about the work.”

She acknowledged it was difficult getting Black activists on board because of the names attached, but made clear that this fact should not distract from the work.

Burke also reminded the attendees that poor women and girls are more vulnerable and need to be at the forefront of the movement.

Black and brown girls are more likely to experience sexual violence and be victims of rape, according to Burke. Yet, they are often ignored and underserviced. 

“I’m at the junior high school and I have sixth, seventh and eighth-grade girls and more than half of these girls’ lives have been touched by sexual violence,” she said. “And what we heard back was they need more guidance counselors.

To rally the crowd, she vowed to rein in the movement and prevent "pretty girls" and Hollywood types from taking over and redefining the intent behind the movement.

“That’s definitely a racial justice issue,” said Burke. “And, at the end of the day, it’s a human rights issue.”

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