GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The woman who ignited the worldwide #MeToo movement spoke to a group of hundreds at a conference in Grand Rapids Thursday evening.
Tarana Burke’s viral work is giving a louder voice to victims of sexual abuse. The #MeToo hashtag has been plastered over social media and headlines, but Burke made it clear that her vision is much more than that.
“Our goal is not just to raise awareness,” the award-winning activist said from the podium at the JW Marriott downtown. “This is an action movement. It is about taking action and making change.”
Burke was the keynote speaker at the 2018 Inforum West Michigan Capstone dinner, sharing her call to action with area professionals.
Afterward, 24 Hour News 8 spoke to her about several topics, including the Larry Nassar scandal.
“In this year, the Larry Nassar case is one of the most stellar examples of survivors taking leadership and what this movement should look like,” Burke said, referring to the hundreds of girls and women who confronted Nassar in court. “It should be the survivors at the forefront voicing their opinions, talking about their experiences; and their experiences being center in coming up with solutions.”
For Burke, the ongoing investigations spawned by the Nassar case serve as an example of the “accountability” and systemic changes she’s calling for as she fights for victims of sexual abuse and assault. She said seeing MSU employees charged, like former President Lou Anna Simon, is a glimpse of hope that mindsets are changing
“Sometimes you got to dig out and get to the heart of where the complicity lies. If we just stop at the person who committed the act and we don’t look at the systems in place that were complicit in keeping that person there, then we just leave space for the problem to happen again,” Burke told 24 Hour News 8. “You got to dig into the root, cut it off at the root and sometimes plant a new thing.”
Burke was also asked about Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ push for changes to Title IX. DeVos claims the changes make the process more fair to accused students and their institutions.
“What’s coming down the pipe for Title IX is tragic and this is a moment where you say,
What can people do? You can take action now,” Burke responded.
You can weigh in on DeVos’ proposal online.
Burke drove home that the #MeToo movement is not a political debate. It’s an issue affecting people across socioeconomic, gender, sexual orientation, and professional barriers.
“The most important thing people can do is become aware of yourself so you can go and spread the message,” she said.