By: Joanie Cox-Henry Contributing Writer
More than 100 hot pink sashes adorned the dining room at Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club Feb. 28 as women and men gathered for AVDA’s 12th Annual Heart of A Woman Luncheon.
Founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke delivered a heartfelt speech to the sold-out crowd as they dined on gourmet chicken and fish and sipped white wine. Liz Quirantes emceed the event.
While AVDA has been helping victims of domestic abuse since 1985, proceeds from this event went toward AVDA’s 24-hour crisis hotline, Casa Vegso Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing programs, outreach services and education and prevention programs throughout Palm Beach County.
Listed alongside Taylor Swift, Ashley Judd and dozens of others as one of the “Silence Breakers” for Time Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year, Burke has dedicated more than two decades of her life to social justice.
“I’ve been traveling the country for the past year and a half talking about ‘me too,’” said Burke who donned a regal purple dress designed by Harlem-based designer Whitney Mero.
She launched the movement in 2006, but it didn’t catch on until 2017 when the hashtag went viral. #Me Too quickly grew to a movement that captured international attention and boosted Burke’s status to inspirational leader.
Born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., Burke was brought up in a working class family and encouraged by her elders to read as many books as possible to learn how to identify justice. Surviving rape and sexual assault as a child and teenager, Burke was determined to help improve the lives of other young women experiencing adversity.
“Although I was a young survivor, I didn’t realize I could be an activist,” Burke said. “I quickly found out I could relate to these women.”
Since the #MeToo movement went viral on social media with celebrities such as Alyssa Milano tweeting the hashtag in the fall of 2017, Burke was initially frightened all the work she had done to initially launch the movement in 2006 would be forgotten.
“The goal is to shift the narrative away from perpetrators and focus on the systemic problem,” Burke said. “We need a shift in how we teach consent and respect and we need to do this at an early age.”
Burke has also gained some famous friends since publicly receiving her due recognition as the founder of the #MeToo movement. “Blackish” star Tracee Ellis Ross is one of several celebrities who has befriended Burke. And while Burke is grateful to have some high profile friends now who support the #MeToo movement, she continues to keep the focus of it right where it started—on communities.
“I’m asking for us to work together. I’m asking for us to heal together. If you all are ready to do that work, I leave you with two words: ‘me too,’” Burke concluded during her speech, which received a thunderous standing ovation from the crowd.
Before the address, AVDA presented awards to “Heart of a Woman” honorees:
Julie Weil, abuse survivor and activist, individual honoree for her dedication to ensuring all survivors of sexual assault are believed and supported;
Palm Beach County Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center, service organization honoree for coordinating the county’s response to survivors of sexual assault; and
Ruth and Norman Rales Jewish Community Center, the community organization honoree for providing financial resources to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Heart of a Woman co-chairs were Jeannette DeOrchis, Rosemary Krieger, Anne Vegso and Gail Veros.
Contributing Writer Dale King contributed to this report.