[*I’m working under the assumption that they didn’t sell out in comparison to Hasan Minaj]
But they didn’t, and I can’t say I was entirely surprised.
Ms. Burke is the #blackgirlmagic fireball behind the #metoo movement—a movement that has been largely associated with the sexual harassment/assault nightmares of Hollywood actresses by the booger-faced ogre Harvey Wienstien. Google him on your own time. Last Monday, she actually came to the University of Rochester Campus to speak. Why is this so profound? Well, number one: the University of Rochester is in the middle of nowhere. Number two: refer back to number one. Number three: this campus was completely rocked by the sexual assault case concerning Brain and Cognitive science professors Celeste Kidd, Jessica Cantlon, and Florian Jaeger. Both Kidd and Cantlon were listed in Time magazine Persons of the Year as “silence breakers.” Rightfully so, because the careers of these women were placed in jeopardy at the sexual whims of a man that was actively protected by the University.
Unfortunately, I was not on campus to really get a first hand observance of the campus dynamic, but I looked on through Facebook livestreams. I watched President Seligman utterly fail to placate or answer to the wrath of the student body. I watched as he bumbled and weaseled with excellent bureaucratic vocabulary through reasonable demands. I watched clips of student protests, and I watched the steam rise from the heated chants in front of Wallis Hall. I also watched the lack of follow through from these demonstrations, but that’s a blog for another day. Never the less these on-campus happenings were reinforced by the disturbing events among the Hollywood elite that put the nations ear to the #metoo movement.
I’m kinda of sick of going around campus and people not knowing who Tarana Burke is. People are more likely it riddle offactresses than they are to know who actually created the movement in the first place. But who’s to blame when even Time magazine didn’t even put her on the front cover. But Taylor friggin Swift is over here taking up space. OKAY.
And when you go to the actual website of the “silence breakers” article, this is the first face you see:
You have to wait damn near 8 seconds before you even see Tarana Burkes face. Am I being petty?
Yes, because I’m personally tired of people waiting till black women are dead and gone, or on the edge of death before they are ever acknowledged for the contributions they have made to this society.
The least that folks can do is put her on the cover for the movement she started and know who she is. Okay, rant over…almost.
So I when I saw that Tarana Burke was coming to campus I was ecstatic. I saw that that the talk started an 8 PM. That was the same time that I got out of work, but I was determined—DE-TER-MINED to get there anyway. Don’t get me wrong folks. I was indeed late. But if you were the ticket holder at the entrance you saw the eagerness seeping out my eyes and my pores. A good friend of mine (the one and only Naomi Rutagarama) had done her do diligence and saved me a seat in the third row, so I came in looking like a ravaged nomad searching for an oasis in the desert. I apologize to the programmer who offered me a seat in the back to which I briskly breathed, “No. My friend is saving me a seat. No.” I was beside my myself. When I finally found my seat, I sat down like:
“If you’re not happy about the climate here, you need to change that. You have that power.”
Tarana Burke’s speech was comprehensive and real. She embodied the activism that gives the #metoo movement the backbone to continue with or without the media attention.
She made it clear that it was important to know her beginnings with the concept of advocacy for women’s assault/healing. It started with her as a youth worker and founder at JustBeInc. and her troubling interaction with a young girl named Heaven. This interaction was the spark that got the gears turning towards developing #metoo in the first place. I highly highly encourage you to read the story for yourself. It adds so much context and bolsters the depth to the social media hashtag.
As Tarana Burke continued to speak, I learned how important it was to work towards a vision no matter if anyone pays attention or not. Tarana saw a need to create a space for women to see each other and recognize that they are not alone in a world that tolerates misogyny and rape culture. As she was continuing to shine her light through her work on the ground and eventually myspace and Twitter, it resonated with women of all walks of life and one of those women came to be Alyssa Milano. Tarana was sure to clarify that Alyssa has never overstepped her bounds by claiming to be the gatekeeper of the #metoo movement, unlike some people (*cough, cough Rose McGowan).
Tarana wasn’t shy in emphasizing that the #metoo movement was a safe space for all, including (if not most of all) the transgender community.
Rose McGowan has no jurisdiction here, despite her little tantrum late January. Watch on your own time….or just wait for me to write a blog post about it.
Any way, back to the important things. Tarana wasn’t looking for fame and recognition, but when Alyssa Milana happened upon Tarana’s movement on Twitter, she gave credit where credit was due. As a result Tarana Burke has been interviewed, paraded on the Golden Globes, and has even been given a book deal. She has continued to do her good work by developing online resources and toolkits for intentional community healing. Some might say, all of her prolonged hard work is starting to pay off, but Tarana said it was far from over.
This is when it got real, folks. Tarana held nothing back when addressing the failure of the University of Rochester to do its part in protecting its students:
This is a community, obviously. I wanna say something to this room that I hope resonates through this campus and I feel like hasn’t been said directly: You are worthy of and deserve protection and safety. Period. And when you enroll in a school one of the top priorities should be to provide that protection and safety, period.
She had taken the time to read some of the the independent report and she was sorely disappointed. She identified a warp in the moral compass and lack of accountability on this campus, and she wasn’t wrong. The administration does lack accountability concerning this case, and its impact on UR students. But she didn’t stop there, she encouraged and charged us all with the task of finding ways to allow healing to permeate throughout this campus. What she described was collective action—a coming together of individuals that actively enact solutions that emphasize and reinforce procedures, policy, anything that promotes security and protection for everyone. Healing can be shared.
The protests that fired off on this campus first semester, was a start. The mobilization of the Meliora Movement was a positive attempt, and I say attempt because its mission ( “Movement calling for university accountability, policy improvements, and student representation on decision-making boards. Reclaiming Meliora.”) can not come to any real traction unless we are first applying that accountability to ourselves, and what we have within our power to influence. It’s not enough to be angry. After the anger has waned, the injustice still stands. I could only hope that the individuals that had participated in the righteous anger of first semester, took the time to attend this talk.
The talk ended with Tarana giving us all the honesty, flair (honestly, check out the link she is stylin’ profilin’ for real), and #blackgirlmagic the room could handle and then she took questions. She stayed on the stage a little bit afterwards to take hugs and pictures. I pitifully looked on, regretting I didn’t charge the stage earlier. But alas! as Naomi and I were exiting towards the tunnel towards Wilco, I spotted her coming my way. I eagerly waited at the doorway and as she passed, she saw me. She shook my hand and gave me the deepest hug…I had been blessed.
I wistfully looked after her, as she answered to the buzzing swarm of students, coordinators, and security. What a night.
Special thanks to Naomi Rutagarama for being the supporter and sounding board of this blog post! Thanks friend 🙂