Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, will give this year's 42nd Annual Tresolini Lecture.

Founder of #MeToo Movement to Deliver Lehigh’s 42nd Annual Tresolini Lecture

Activist Tarana Burke initiated a movement to help women and girls, particularly those of color, who survived sexual abuse and assault.

Story by

Christina Tatu

Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement and a social justice activist dedicated to giving strength to those who experienced sexual trauma, will deliver Lehigh’s 42nd Annual Tresolini Lecture.

This year’s event will be held at 7 p.m., Sept. 20 in Baker Hall at Zoellner Arts Center. It is free to the public and will be a moderated discussion with Vera Fennell, associate professor of political science at Lehigh. A question and answer session with the audience will follow.

Burke was among those recognized as “TIME Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers,” a special edition of TIME Magazine representing people who came forward to report sexual misconduct. She was also named as one of TIME’s “100 Most Influential People of 2018.”

Years before #MeToo became viral, Burke founded JUSTBe Inc., a nonprofit youth organization focused on the health, well-being and wholeness of young women of color.

She first used the phrase in 2006. “In those early years, we developed our vision to bring resources, support and pathways to healing where none existed before,” says the me too. website. A sexual assault survivor herself, Burke is now executive director of the me too. organization. She is also senior director of programs at the Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equity.

As a youth worker, dealing predominantly with Black children and children of color, Burke had seen and heard her share of heartbreaking stories. One story in particular resonated with her. After an all-girls bonding session at youth camp, one of the girls later privately shared with Burke that she had been sexually abused by a family member, according to the website. Burke said she referred the girl to another female counselor, but later felt bad about the decision.

Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke

“As much as I loved her, I couldn’t muster the energy to tell her that I understood, that I connected, that I could feel her pain,” Burke wrote on the website. “I couldn’t help her release her shame, or impress upon her that none of it was her fault. But most of all, I could not find the strength to say out loud the words that were ringing in my head over and over again.”

In 2017, the #MeToo hashtag went viral on social media when actor Alyssa Milano sent a tweet asking those who’d been harassed or assaulted to share stories or just reply “me too,” following revelations about film producer Harvey Weinstein. The movement inspired more people to speak out about sexual misconduct.

Burke now provides insights into the current state of affairs on sexual assault and harassment allegations, addresses pressing issues of respect, dignity and power dynamics in schools, workplaces and politics, and shines a light on stories of survivors and voices that continue to be marginalized.

The Rocco J. Tresolini Lectureship in Law was established in 1978, in memory of one of Lehigh’s most distinguished teachers and scholars, Rocco Tresolini (1920-1967), who served as professor and chair of the Department of Government.

Burke is the latest in a long line of luminaries to deliver the Tresolini Lecture, including journalist Carl Bernstein, public intellectual Cornel West, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, former Watergate-era White House Counsel John Dean, Bush v. Gore attorney David Boies, and Innocence Project founder Barry Scheck.

Last year’s speaker was activist, legal scholar and award-winning author Mary Anne Franks who gave a virtual lecture titled, “The Faithless Constitution: Rights and Responsibilities in the 21st Century.”

Story by

Christina Tatu

Related Stories

Tarana Burke

Founder of #MeToo Movement Delivers 42nd Tresolini Lecture

Tarana Burke recalls the moment her movement went viral and says, "We still have so far to go.”

Mary Anne Franks

Renowned Legal Scholar Mary Anne Franks Delivers 41st Tresolini Lecture

Frank’s virtual presentation addresses ‘The Faithless Constitution: Rights and Responsibilities in the 21st Century.’

Mary Anne Franks headshot

Renowned Legal Scholar Mary Anne Franks to Deliver Tresolini Lecture

Frank will deliver “The Faithless Constitution: Rights and Responsibilities in the 21st Century” virtually.