In recognition of Burke’s global impact on social justice and advocacy, the college will award her an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the May 30 event held at the Barclays Center, where she will also give the keynote address.

Tarana Burke, 2017 Time magazine Person of the Year, globally recognized civil rights activist, founder of the #MeToo movement, and founder of the nonprofit organization Just Be, Inc., will be the recipient of an honorary doctor of humane letters (pending CUNY approval) at the 2019 Brooklyn College Commencement Ceremony. The event will be held at the Barclays Center on May 30, 2019, where Burke will also give the keynote address.

“We are honored that Tarana Burke will share the wisdom of her experiences and the impact of her activism with our graduates as they begin the next phase of their lives as engaged and responsible citizens” says Brooklyn College President Michelle J. Anderson, a lawyer and noted scholar on the subject of rape culture. “There is not a more deserving candidate for the honorary doctor of humane letters.”

Burke has been dedicated to helping vulnerable communities put an end to socioeconomic injustice and sexual violence for decades. Born in the Bronx, Burke grew up in a working-class family. She attended both Alabama State University and Auburn University in Alabama. As a college student, she organized protests and press conferences to raise awareness of and develop strategies to dismantle poverty and racism. After graduation, she moved to Selma, Alabama, where she began working with survivors of sexual violence. This led her to found, Just Be, Inc. in 2003, a youth organization focused on the “health, wellbeing, and wholeness of young women of color.”

In 2006, Burke began using the phrase “me too.,” to draw attention to the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in a society that often ignores or penalizes survivors of such crimes, and to assure these survivors that they were not alone and could find healing in safer spaces in the community. In 2008, she moved to Philadelphia and worked at Art Sanctuary Philadelphia and other nonprofits, while continuing her work with Just Be, Inc.

In 2014, Burke was a consultant for Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay’s 2014 hit Hollywood film, Selma, based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lewis. In 2017, 11 years after she coined the phrase, #MeToo was popularized by various celebrities on social media following allegations of sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein. Burke and her social justice work were rocketed into the international spotlight. That same year, Time magazine named Burke—among a group of other prominent activists referred to as “the silence breakers”—as the “Time Person of the Year.”

The following year, for her #MeToo work, Burke received the Prize for Courage from the Ridenhour Prizes, awarded to individuals who “demonstrate courageous defense of the public interest and passionate commitment to social justice.” Also in 2018, Burke was the recipient of the Black Girls Rock! Community Change Agent Award for “fighting to change indifference regarding sexual harassment and for giving the survivors of abuse a platform to share their stories and begin the process of healing.” SHE Media bestowed her with their 2018 Voices of the Year (VOTY) Catalyst Award, which honors “content creators, influencers, and social advocates whose work deserves to be heard, seen, recognized and read.”

Burke is a public speaker who travels around the world to organize workshops designed to improve academic, workplace, and religious policies around sexual assault, as well as provide survivors of sexual violence with the emotional and psychological tools they need to avoid self-blame.

Past recipients of the Brooklyn College Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters include Senator Bernie Sanders, actor and activist Harry Belafonte, and National Book Award-winning writer Edwidge Danticat. This year’s Commencement Ceremony promises to be an exciting event as Burke will be joined by other extraordinary guests, including Emmy Award-winning actor and humanitarian Jimmy Smits, who will be receiving the 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award.