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#MeToo HBCU Tour kicks off at Howard University

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Apr 10, 2019 - 10:47:10 AM

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WASHINGTON—The #MeToo HBCU Tour made its first stop at Howard University with a full day of events for students, faculty, and administrators interested in joining the movement to end sexual violence and the rape culture.

“Our goal is to reframe and expand the global conversation around sexual violence to speak to the needs of a broader spectrum of survivors,” said the movements founder, Tarana Burke.

From left: Author and activist Darnell Moore, scholar Dr. Yaba Blay and activist and founder of #MeToo Tarana Burke at April 2 event at Howard University.

Ms. Burke was joined at the April 2 event by friend and colleague Dr. Yaba Blay. They are considered two of the decade’s most prominent figures at confronting racism and fighting to end sexual violence.

“It’s easy to get swept up in the energy of viral moments like the one we’re in with ‘#MeToo,’ but we need not forget that they are spurred by real, grassroots movements, typically led by Black people and people of color,” Dr. Blay explained.

“This college tour is a chance to move beyond social media and give young people a place to process, reflect, and strategize. We are committed to facilitating commitments from HBCUs and helping students and faculty create solutions for safer campuses and communities.”

The group presented Howard University with a check for $10,000 to establish a #MeToo HBCU Task Force that will begin in the fall. The university also signed a campus accountability commitment with a goal of disrupting and preventing sexual assault. This includes having staff training and encouraging bystander intervention.

“We are not just paying lip service to this,” said Ms. Burke. “We really want to shift and change what’s happening. This is our movement.”

The tour was coordinated through Howard University’s Office of the Dean of the Chapel and included strategic convening with campus leaders as well as a men’s only meeting.

Author and activist Darnell Moore facilitated the men’s only panel. He spoke about it during a fireside chat. “Men are rarely taught about consent,” he said. “When you are engaging with someone intimately you need to get their permission.”

He explained that this can be challenging for men and boys who are socialized to touch as they see fit. “What do you need to ask permission for something you’ve been told you can have?”

The campus wide fireside chat was held with Ms. Burke and Dr. Blay and gave students an opportunity to hear issues that were presented earlier in the day.

“When has it been time to prioritize sexual violence for Black women in a time of White supremacy? Our silence has been our protection,” said Dr. Blay.

Ms. Burke spoke on the regulation of Black women’s bodies. “We get rules. Put on clothes. Don’t sit on a man’s lap. The message is we are complicit in our own abuse. The other message we need to hear is that it’s not our fault,” she said.

“We don’t see a lot of urgency in our community around #MeToo. We’ve gotten use to our pain. The urgency doesn’t exist because we’ve gotten used to our pain. We have a problem.”

The fireside chat also provided a chance for the audience to ask questions.

“How do you heal from intergeneration trauma?” asked one audience member. “What you need as a 10-year-old is not what you need when you get grown,” said Dr. Blay. “Believe Black girls. Trust Black women. Not only believe but want to do something about it.”

Mr. Moore said part of the problem is, “We are socialized to smile through it. It’s OK to say, I’m not OK.”

Ms. Burke added, “We have to raise our girls with vigilance not fear.” For freshman Melissa Parker from Harrisburg, Pa., the event was very informative. “I learned a lot this evening. More than I knew before. I’m glad they came to Howard. I feel more comfortable talking about these issues with my friends too. We used to just keep silent but that made things worse. I need to use my voice and exercise my power. I have to speak up for what is right.”

Students concerned about sexual harassment, or rape can seek services through Howard University’s Office of Interpersonal Violence Prevention. It serves as a resource center to students, faculty and staff through advocacy, education, and training. The office encompasses the university’s commitment to enhancing the safety and quality of life of all students, staff, and faculty.

The Title IX Office at Howard University is responsible for implementing the University’s Title IX Policy, which prohibits all forms of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. The Title IX Office ensures that all students and employees are appropriately trained and made aware of their rights and responsibilities under the Title IX Policy. The Title IX Office is also responsible for responding to all reports of sex discrimination, harassment and violence.

Other stops on the Spring 2019 tour include Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, & Morehouse College on April 9 (Atlanta, Ga.); Alabama State University on April 12 (Montgomery, Ala.); North Carolina Central University on April 18 (Durham, N.C.); and Florida A&M University on April 19 (Tallahassee, Fla.).

Admission is free, but registration is strongly encouraged. Registrants will receive regular location and schedule updates. Events are first-come, first-served. For more information and tour updates visit InstagramTwitter and Facebook: @metoomvmt | #metooHBCU.