• U.S.
  • justice

Tarana Burke Thinks These People Represent the Future of the #MeToo Fight

5 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

Five years ago, with one viral tweet, the “me too” movement—founded by Tarana Burke in 2006—swept the world. But even as #MeToo picked up traction on social media in response to Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior, the campaign to end sexual violence was never just about Hollywood. Burke has said that she worried that the focus on the entertainment industry might overshadow the grassroots work occurring in communities of color that she had been focused on, and that over the years she made a point of trying to ensure that would not be the case.

In the intervening years, the “me too” movement has changed the language we use to speak about sexual assault, provided a safe space for survivors to share their trauma, and sparked reflections about whether carceral solutions are the most effective approach to this global problem.

In an essay for TIME marking the anniversary of that Oct. 15, 2017, tweet, Burke reflected on how she hopes the movement’s future also centers survivors and the creation of a world in which the systems that led so many to say “me too” can finally change. “More than any law that has been passed or policy that has been changed in the past five years, this movement has created visibility and community for those of us who thought we might go to our grave bearing a shame that was never ours to carry in the first place,” she wrote.

Read more: What ‘Me Too’ Made Possible

A key component of what comes next is those who will shape the future phase of the fight.

Here are five organizations and individuals Burke tells TIME she feels are leading the way in the movement for sexual justice. They have worked to increase the age of consent, to protect Chicago’s low-wage workers and Atlanta’s Black trans women, and to address the root causes of childhood sexual abuse.

me too. International Team

At the official “me too” movement organization, the international team has been harnessing political power for survivors on multiple fronts. They teach leadership and organizing skills to survivors, and have also created a Survivors’ Agenda coalition with detailed values and policy demands related to alternatives to the criminal legal system, community safety, education, and health care regulations. Over the last year, the team has been focused on healing programs for survivors and building a global network in partnership with Global Fund for Women. The team is led by CEO Dani Ayers, CCO Denise Beek, and CSO Nikita Mitchell. “These three women collectively have an extensive track record in movement work,” Burke says. “They are the braintrust of the ‘me too’ organization and will carry the work forward under this umbrella and others in years to come.”

SNaP Co (Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative)

Atlanta-based SNaP Co launched in 2013 as a direct response to Atlanta’s city council’s attempts to criminalize sex workers, which eventually failed. Since then, the group has organized around addressing police sexual harassment and assault of Black trans women in the Georgia city. SNaP Co also documents community members’ harmful experiences with local law enforcement and conducts comprehensive surveys about their relationships with police, and has partnered with the city to divert people from the Atlanta City Detention Center. Executive director Toni-Michelle Williams “brings all of herself and her training as an artist, somatics coach, and organizer into her work,” says Burke.

Healing to Action

Healing to Action grew out of the Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence, which focused on sexual violence against low-wage workers in Chicago. The organization currently helps survivors heal through community programs that also provide skills to organize against systemic gender-based violence. The group runs campaigns to ensure that Chicago public school students receive adequate sex ed and operates workshops for organizers to build skills to support survivors. Healing to Action is led by Sheerine Alemzadeh, an activist and daughter of Iranian immigrants, and Karla Altmayer, a lawyer who grew up on Chicago’s South Side. “Co-founders Sheerine and Karla are committed to expanding the movement to end sexual violence by developing the leadership of survivors of sexual violence,” Burke says, “and ensuring that we are at the forefront of power building and decision making about our own futures.”

The Heal Project

The Heal Project is focused on preventing childhood sexual abuse through addressing its systemic root causes, working “through healing the wounds of sexual oppression and embracing sexual liberation,” as the group puts it. The group provides training, programs, and media for colleges, organizations, and conferences on this topic, and is led by Ignacio G Hutía Xeiti Rivera, a Black-Boricua and Taíno cultural sociologist, and Aredvi Azad, an Irani-American certified sex and relationship coach. Rivera says the group is often overlooked when it comes for funding because they don’t take a traditional approach in trying to eradicate childhood sexual abuse. For example, part of their focus is on reworking how children are taught to unconditionally accept what adults say.

Cierra Fields

Cierra Fields is a sexual-assault-awareness advocate, a cancer survivor and member of the Cherokee Nation. As Burke points out, the White House honored her organizing work by recognizing her as a changemaker in 2016. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Fields pushed for the tribal council to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16. Fields is also known for her advocacy around cancer and inadequate health care for indigenous populations.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Sanya Mansoor at sanya.mansoor@time.com