Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, visits Florida A&M University (FAMU) on Friday, April 19, as part of a campaign to “end sexual violence and rape culture on campus.”
The #Me Too HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Tour stop will include a full day of events that organizers say are geared toward students, faculty, and administrators who want to learn how they can help stop sexual violence on college campuses.
“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 Burke, who will be accompanied by Yaba Blay, a fellow activist in the fight to dismantle racism and end sexual violence.
“Young Black people across the diaspora- along spectrums of class, gender, sexuality, and ability- rely on and invest in HBCUs not to just facilitate an education, but to keep them safe while doing so,” Burke continued. “We’re holding academic institutions accountable and harnessing our collective power to create strategies for sustained systemic change.”
The #MeToo movement was founded in 2006 to help survivors of sexual violence, particularly Black women and girls, and other young women of color from disadvantaged communities, find pathways to healing.
Organizers of the tour say college campuses are often the first line of defense in the work to create safe and accountable communities for their students and faculty, and as such, have been instrumental in the growth of the #Me Too movement.
Statistically, HBCUs have not been able to move the work forward compared to predominantly white institutions (PWIs), tour organizers said. Through the day of activities, the #Me Too HBCU Tour “will attempt to explore this disparity and set in motion some strategic actions to close the resource gap,” organizers said.
At FAMU, however, experts have been focusing on the issue for the past three years with the help of a $300,000 federal grant.
Yolanda Bogan, Ph.D., program director of the FAMU Center for Interpersonal Violence, Intervention and Prevention, has been leading a project funded by the U.S. Office of Violence Against Women to develop a coordinated community response team to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
The project brings together male and female students, administrators and staff to improve policy, and provide culturally sensitive educational and outreach programming to the FAMU community around the issues of sexual assault, date rape, sexual harassment, stalking and domestic violence, Bogan said.
“Our findings reinforce the need to engage all students, not just females, in the fight against gender-based violence,” said Bogan, who is also an associate dean and a psychology professor in the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities.
To ensure that students are oriented to the FAMU policies and legal standards around these issues, Bogan said, the initiative provides educational programming in the First Year Experience courses as a follow-up to the student orientation training. In addition, the project has sponsored several performances of a play performed by the FAMU Essential Theatre and a spoken word program in partnership with Black on Black Rhyme to broaden the messaging around consent, bystander intervention, and student resources.
“Being Black and female or being Black and gay increases a person’s likelihood of being a victim of gender-based violence so as a FAMU family we have to maintain awareness of these issues on our campus even beyond the funding of this project,” Bogan said.
But given the way the justice system works, on HBCU campuses, some victims may be reluctant to report incidents, Bogan said.
“The desire to shield Black men from the legal system, which has been shown to engage in harsher sentencing for Black men, contributes to underreporting to the police,” Bogan said. “A person’s response to a victim’s disclosure of gender-based violence which in some way, blames the victim, also contributes to underreporting, isolation, and feelings of guilt and shame. When experienced by college students, these negative responses may make it less likely that victims will be able to perform academically.”
The consequences are far-reaching and FAMU is taking the issue very seriously, she said.
“Gender-based violence has a negative ripple effect,” Bogan continued, “and FAMU is taking a college-wide approach, which includes ongoing training of law enforcement, judicial board members, students and faculty on how we can all work together to create a safer campus.”
The #MeToo related events from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on FAMU’s campus and are free to the campus community and the public.
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. : #MeToo sponsor display on The “Set.”
Noon to 2 p.m.: Campus leaders will discuss FAMU’s efforts to protect students, faculty and staff from sexual harassment. Efferson Student Union.
4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.: A men’s-only workshop in Multipurpose Room D, Efferson Student Union. 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.: Fireside conversation with Tarana Burke and Yaba Blay in the Grand Ballroom, Efferson Student Union.
Photo credit: W Magazine