Tarana Burke visited FAMU’s campus on Friday as part of her “Me Too” HBCU Tour, but it was cut short after a disagreement between her team and a FAMU staff member.
Burke is the founder of the “Me Too” movement and an activist for young women and victims of sexual violence. The movement began in 2006 to raise awareness of sexual assault, and became amplified in 2017 when social media users began using the term as a hashtag.
To kickstart the event, which was held in the Grand Ballroom, Burke and professor Yaba Blay introduced themselves and explained the meaning behind the “Me Too” movement, and why they’re bringing it to HBCU campuses.
“It isn’t a witch hunt, it isn’t an agenda war,” Burke said. “It’s a global movement, it’s about about healing in action, supporting survivors and doing the work to end sexual violence.”
Blay proceeded to show participants a video of other college students sharing their intimate conversations, and experiences surrounding sexual violence on their campuses, in a sit-down with Burke. Many students in the video collectively believed there is a lack of conversation and safety surrounding sexual assault and rape on campus.
Former NFL player Wade Davis later joined in on the conversation, and shared his experiences at the “Me Too” tour all male workshops he’s participated in.
“If you’re not ready to ask for consent, you’re not ready to have sex,” Davis said.
He believes men don’t ask for consent because they’re afraid they’ll get a “no” and that asking for consent isn’t cool. He said the movement has caused men to be more cautious about their actions.
As the group continued to talk solutions, and the need for more conversations surrounding sexual assault, Burke pulled out a poster-board size agreement for a new program she wanted to implement on FAMU’s campus.
Shortly after, William Clemm with FAMU’s Office of Student Activities, stood up and interrupted Burke. He explained that Burke was not allowed to read the contract aloud because the university had not reviewed or signed it yet, sparking a debate across the ballroom.
Burke and her team are starting up a “Me Too” task force on college campuses to take further action to end sexual violence. The contract could be reviewed and signed by the university to receive a $10,000 grant to provide resources the task force would need. “It’s something we’re doing because we love black people, we love black institutions and we wanna protect black children,” Burke said.
Crishelle Bailey, a sophomore history major attended the event as a representative of her organization, Generation Action.
“It was definitely embarrassing for FAMU because the way they treated the guests wasn’t welcoming at all,” Bailey said. “None of the administration were there, nobody greeted her.”
Bailey then explained how a FAMU alumna expressed to Burke that the administration has always had poor regard for sexual assault victims on campus, and there hasn’t been much change.
Blay further reminded all present why the tour stopped at FAMU in the first place.
“We’ve received emails from students who do not feel safe on this campus, even before we got here,” Blay said. “This is about a conversation out of love, not an indictment.”
Burke and Blay then defended their intentions and expressed that they felt antagonized by FAMU administration due to lack of responsibility and communication about the task force.
“FAMU has been so antagonistic,” Burke said. “And I don’t know what they’re hiding.”
Burke and her team quickly exited the ballroom, leaving the poster board agreement behind.
In a statement from the university issued Wednesday, William E. Hudson, Jr., vice president of Student Affairs, said: “We are committed to creating and maintaining a healthy and safe campus environment in which our students’ ability to learn, excel and reach their full potential is not limited by the threat or occurrence of sexual violence and sexual harassment.
“We are always looking for ways to improve our services and remain open to working with Ms. Burke and any organization who can enhance the safety of our campus,” Hudson said.
To read about the university’s efforts to prevent sexual assault on campus visit famunews.com.
This article was updated on April 25 to include a response from the university. The headline also was changed to better reflect what happened on Friday in the Grand Ballroom.