When the phrase “me too” formed a movement in late 2017, unifying victims of sexual harassment and assault following the fallout in Hollywood from allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein, it soon became widespread knowledge that this was more than just a viral hashtag sensation, and was actually an idea over 10 years in the making.
Tarana Burke, a social justice activist and community organizer, began using the phrase as early as 2006, and is now credited as the founder of the ‘me too.’ Movement — and she’ll soon journey to Drexel University’s campus to share her amazing journey and empowering ideas.
The Campus Activities Board (CAB), along with The Good Idea Fund and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program will welcome Drexel students, faculty and staff to “An Evening with Tarana Burke” at 6 p.m. on April 26 in the Mitchell Auditorium.
Christian Maxey, a second-year organizational management and operations and supply chain management student and CAB’s culture and discovery director, said the committee set out for this year’s installment of the annual event to bring a speaker to campus who was representative of something current and innately positive.
“Being that it’s National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, that was also a huge contributor to it because we thought it was a great way to shed some light on resources here at Drexel,” Maxey added, citing that the Office of Equality and Diversity as well as the Student Center for Diversity and Inclusion would each have a presence at the event.
This focus on active campus resources was also why it was important that the event be active in and of itself, Maxey said. To accomplish this, the program will include remarks from Burke; a longer, moderated Q&A and finally a shorter audience Q&A.
“It was really important for us to make this a much more interactive session, not so much that it’s just a lecture and then you leave,” Maxey said.
When Maxey reached out to Mary Ebeling, PhD, director of the Women's and Gender Studies program and an associate professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences, to get her program involved with the event, she jumped at the chance. Ebeling and her program helped secure Maori Holmes, founder of the BlackStar Film Festival and a longtime friend of the Women’s and Gender Studies program, as the moderator for the first Q&A.
“I was like, ‘You have to have Maori Holmes as moderator.’ There’s no other person in Philadelphia that could fill that role,” Ebeling said.
Though the event is open to all Dragons, CAB traditionally focuses on programming open to Drexel undergrads only. Maxey said bringing Burke to campus is proving to be an exciting opportunity for students according to ticket sales so far.
Maxey added that Burke’s address will likely resonate with undergrads, as combatting sexual assault and harassment is a “transcendental topic that does not discriminate.”
“I think that we as a student body, we as individuals, face deciding what our generation will do about it, in a way,” Maxey said. “I think that this is one of those things that doesn’t discriminate against race, religion, age, gender. This is a topic that is at the forefront in a lot of our minds, so I think it’s something that we really wanted to bring forward.”
Ebeling said that she thinks undergrads will be inspired by what Burke has to say, and hopes that will spur further activism around this topic on campus and in the community
She added that the University plays a key role in supporting such events which address polarizing topics in our current political climate.
“As the ‘me too.’ movement has highlighted, there are so many survivors out there who feel like they’ve been silenced,” Ebeling said. “It’s important for a place like Drexel through an event like this to take a stand and support survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and be brave in that and take a step forward.”
Maxey concurred in his hope that the event will encourage students to get involved with causes like this, and that none of it would be possible without University support.
“If it flips a switch, we’re happy and we feel like that was our purpose,” he said. “I think that our whole mission is to promote these events and these opportunities for students to think outside the box.”
Tickets for the event are free and open to Drexel students, graduate students, faculty and staff. Make a reservation at drexelcab.com/tickets.