#MeToo: Tarana Burke Notes Progress, Wants More for Black Women
"We can't wait for white folks to decide our trauma is worth focusing on," Burke said.
Tarana Burke is reflecting on the movement she created more than 12 years ago, but it's only been one year since its historic rise worldwide. It has led to women speaking out very publicly against assault. And now that it's been endorsed by the upper echelons of white women, we can celebrate its existence.
On Monday, Burke wrote on Twitter that her work supports all sexual assault survivors, but it "has always centered on Black and Brown women and girls. And it always will…"
My work has always centered Black and Brown women and girls. And it always will - but at the heart of it all it supports ALL survivors of sexual violence. And I committed to that work a long time ago so watching people open up with what felt like no covering online was hard. +
— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) October 15, 2018
So when she heard about Lee Daniels making a Me Too comedy, she expressed objections, saying, "We have to get in front of that."
"To put Me Too and comedy in the same sentence is so deeply offensive… that you think in this moment when we're still unpacking the issue that you can write a comedy about it."
Burke doesn't think the media really cares about the stories of Black women and other women of color.
"We can't wait for white folks to decide that our trauma is worth centering on when we know that it's happening," she told the New York Times.
"We know that there are people, whether they're in entertainment or not, who are ravaging our community. We have to be proactive, unfortunately without the benefit of massive exposure. That's our reality, but it always has been."
The majority of Black women in Hollywood have kept their experiences with sexual assault a secret. But there are a few exceptions.
Gabrielle Union has been, according to Burke, the only woman who not only speaks about her story but also advocates. Few others — Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Fantasia Barrino, and Lupita Nyong'o — have talked about it publicly.
"There is knowing that even if you're not trying to bring down a Black man, a large segment of the population will say 'We don't believe her' because of all these things that we normalize," Burke said.
She recalled when a reporter wanted to do a story on R. Kelly and no one would go on record.
"A lot of folks have slid under the radar," she commented.
While she believes the Black community has doubled down on that thinking, she does note progress.
"You could not have had this kind of public discourse with this many people saying that they believe us — we literally have an example in Anita Hill," she told Paper Magazine. "We don't even have to guess what it would've been like or could've been like or what people would've said 20 years ago, we saw it."
In collaboration with the New York Women's Foundation, Burke's Me Too is helping to fund groups serving communities of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ people.
The "Fund for the MeToo Movement and Allies," awarded $840,000 to the DC Rape Crisis center in Washington, the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective in Los Angeles, the Firecracker Foundation in Lansing, Michigan, Black Women's Blueprint and the Violence Intervention Program, both in New York; Equality Labs, a national group; and the Los Angeles-based FreeFrom, which works with survivors of domestic violence.
The partnership's goal is to raise $5 million per year.
"This is about supporting the people who support the people," Burke said.
Reader Question: Why do you think Black women's stories of sexual assault have been largely unheard or drowned out?
"This is a huge victory for the survivors who came forward, both in 'Surviving R. Kelly' and before, and all young Black women, who are systematically undervalued in our society," said Arisha Hatch of Color of Change.
R. Kelly was removed from RCA Records' website on Friday, but no official statement has been made by the record label.
Sony and R. Kelly have agreed to part ways, according to a Billboard report. The "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary and subsequent backlash from activists, music fans, and fellow music artists seems to have taken its toll, after more than 25 years of accusations of sexual and physical abuse.
"You better think of something quick. You're running out of time," said Faith Rodgers attorney, of R. Kelly.
Faith Rodgers , 21, spoke to New York police Monday and unveiled a threatening letter allegedly written by R. Kelly last October.
Rodgers is suing Kelly for nonconsensual acts he allegedly forced her into in 2017, when she was 19.
In the notarized letter to attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing Rodgers, Kelly allegedly wrote "if she persists in court action, she will be subjected to public opinion," that she should have test results "proving the origin of her STD claim." The letter also said Kelly would request "10 personal male witnesses testifying about her sex life."
"If Ms. Rodgers really cares about her own reputation, she should cease her participation and association with the organizers of this negative campaign," the letter allegedly signed by Kelly says.
Kelly's attorney told CBS News the letter is "a fake" saying "R. Kelly can't read, write or type. He didn't send any letter."
Rodgers' attorney said of Kelly's future: "You better think of something quick. You're running out of time."
"Mr. Kelly, your disgusting tactics will not prevent women who allege that they were victimized from telling their truth."
Last week, an arrest warrant was issued for his former manager, James Mason, for an incident report in May 2018 where threats were made against one of the girls' fathers. The report quoted Mason threatening to kill Timothy Savage and family: "I'm going to do harm to you and your family, when I see you I'm gonna get you, I'm going to f**king kill you," Mason was quoted as saying in the police report, obtained by CNN.
As women come forward post the "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary, Kelly maintains his innocence.
Steven Greenberg, told NBC News that neither he nor Kelly has watched the documentary and said of the accusers, "They're just haters trying to ruin his career."
Several artists have spoken out in support of the accusers, including John Legend, Keke Palmer, Lady Gaga, and even Kelly's own daughter, Joann Kelly. Celine Dion and Chance the Rapper have reportedly pulled their music collaborations with him from streaming services.
Rodgers said she could forgive Kelly, but also believes he should be in jail. Additionally, she said: " He needs help not only mental help he needs spiritual help."
Reader Question: Do you think this letter will result in charges being brought against Kelly?
Pot, meet kettle.
Fresh off the whirlwind success of Lifetime Network's controversial "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary, longtime music journalist Touré, one of the many high-profiled contributors featured in the series, has been accused of sexual harassment by his former makeup artist.
All three of his children, and his ex-wife, have not spoken to him in years.
Singer Buku Abi, real name Joann Kelly, posted on Instagram saying she was "devastated" by the recent accusations in the documentary "Surviving R. Kelly."
The 20-year-old said she hasn't seen or spoken to him in years, calling him a "terrible" father.
There were repeated requests by him and his label to work with the teenage girls. Matthew Knowles, said of the girls: "They did not leave our eyes."
Beyoncé's father, Matthew Knowles said Destiny's Child stayed away from R. Kelly because they had heard of his reputation back in the late '90s.
"The girls were 15, 16," he said. "When they went to the bathroom, Tina would go with them. They did not leave our eyes."
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While Chance acknowledged his mistake, many other artists, who have profited in some way from an R. Kelly collaboration, are keeping quiet.
"Surviving R. Kelly," the documentary series that R. Kelly's lawyers had threatened to file a federal lawsuit over, has not only outed some disgusting allegations against the singer, songwriter and record producer, and the families of young Black girls, but also gut-wrenching truths about the treatment of Black women by the music industry — and the money and fame that has been prioritized over their lives.