When Tarana Burke speaks about #MeToo, the movement she has founded, her story starts with Heaven. Heaven, a girl Burke met when she worked as a summer camp director in Alabama, was what Burke calls “her special.”
“There’s always that one kid who’s like right up underneath you, who follows you around everywhere.” For her, that kid was Heaven.
One night, in a group discussion Burke facilitated for the girls at the camp to “just talk about anything,” she could tell Heaven was ready to share something. The girl didn’t get a chance to talk that night, so the next day, she found Burke in the hallway.
“I kept avoiding her because there was something that I saw the night before and I saw it that day in her eyes, that she had a story she was dying to tell, and I knew what it was.” Burke, a survivor of sexual violence, said she wasn’t ready to handle her own issues of trauma, let alone Heaven’s.
She sent Heaven away.
For years afterward, Burke said she “literally felt haunted” by her encounter with Heaven. “When she walked away from me, I’m like, ‘My god, I couldn’t even say ‘Me too” to her.’ I couldn’t even offer her that little bit of solace that you are not alone… I couldn’t even give that to her. And nobody actually gave that to me when I was young.”
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