Tarana Burke inspired a packed room of students, faculty and community members on Tuesday by vividly detailing her experiences with the Me Too Movement and its significance.
Burke came to BGSU as part of the Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories campaign, which was created by BGSU’s University Libraries to bring motivating and inspiring stories to campus.
“Tarana Burke kept surfacing to the top. This would dovetail really well with everything going on in the world like the Me Too Movement and Time’s Up Movement,” Sara Bushong, dean of University Libraries, said.
From the onset of Burke’s presentation, the audience was energetic and engaged.
“She had a spirit about her that was contagious and pulled the room in,” Courtney Foerg, freshman social work major, said.
Burke spoke about her experiences growing up which molded her into the person she is today, detailing particularly her relationship with her grandfather and mother.
But Burke discussed a relationship with a girl she called “Heaven” as the first event that triggered her desire to truly be a voice for sexual assault survivors. She said how she failed to be there for this girl.
Heaven came to her and started telling her about her experience with sexual violence. Burke, ultimately, sent her away because it was too painful to listen to Heaven, as she saw Heaven as a reflection of herself.
“The words ‘Me Too’ came from my inability to say them,” Burke recalled.
Her inability to say Me Too originally sparked the huge movement known internationally today, which Burke describes as “a global community of survivors.”
After detailing her story, Burke began discussing why sexual violence happens in the first place and called the audience to take action.
She spoke about unchecked accumulation of power and the misuse of privilege that lead to many instances of sexual violence.
“When you don’t use your privilege for good, that’s a problem,” Burke said. She continued by discussing Joe Biden and the publicized remarks made by females who he has made uncomfortable in the past.
“If we can’t tell the best guy in the room we are uncomfortable and ask him to change his actions, then what the hell are we gonna do with the rest?” Burke questioned, resulting in cheers from the audience.
Burke also challenged the administration of BGSU to act in ways that make students feel safe.
“Students feel empowered and supported when they feel safe,” Burke said.
Burke concluded by speaking about how she is “no silver bullet” and how “it is going to take all of us doing all in our capacity to move the needle.”
At the end of her presentation, Burke received a standing ovation — a testament to the weight her words held in the hearts of her audience.
“I really thought that while she spoke, she was speaking to each individual in the room and when you have a shared experience like that, you come away with 750 people hearing the message and feeling it, and that feeling really helps us grow,” Bushong said.
BGSU President Rodney Rogers said it best in his opening remarks, “She’s making the world a better place.”