Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, will headline an event Sunday at Stony Brook University aiming to get Long Island business, government and student leaders to implement reforms to prevent and handle sexual misconduct in their workplaces and institutions.
Called “#MeToo . . . #LIToo,” the event includes separate panels and workshops for students and businesses. It is sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, Protect NY Kids and TD Bank.
About 50 businesses have signed on, with more than 600 people expressing interest in attending the forum, hosted by a coalition of domestic violence groups and lawmakers from state and county government.
“She and this event bring out a level of awareness that we need to keep going,” said Cindy Morris, chief executive officer of i-tri, a program for middle-school-age girls in eastern Suffolk County that uses fitness training to build confidence and self-esteem. “We would not have been selling out an audience for Tarana Burke six months ago, but because of what is happening in our country right now — we are.”
Burke, 44, a civil rights activist turned international figure, created the “Me Too” campaign in 2007 after working with women and girls who had survived sexual assault. She is senior director of Girls for Gender Equity, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that advocates for the physical, psychological, social and economic development of girls and women.
The campaign surged in prominence as a social media hashtag in October after actress Alyssa Milano called for victims to post #metoo on Twitter. Within 24 hours, more than 12 million women and some men posted the hashtag on various social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, sometimes detailing their own experiences of surviving sexual violence.
Organizers of the event at Stony Brook said it is important to bring Burke to Long Island to keep the movement going and to discuss ways to change the culture locally.
Burke, who could not be reached for comment, has been to several high-profile events to promote her campaign, including the Golden Globes earlier this month, and has multiple college speaking engagements. She was at Hofstra University on Nov. 1 and plans to speak at Cornell University in February.
Long Island lawmakers also are seeking to enhance policies and training to prevent sexual harassment.
Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she is reviewing all county policies in an effort to ensure that Suffolk agencies, including the police department, are upholding best practices when a complaint is made. Officials in Nassau County have said they are taking similar measures.
“As a woman legislator — one of only six in Suffolk County — I think it is important we have this dialogue in our community,” said Hahn, the current majority leader. “It’s exciting to have her [Burke] here and I think it will spark a larger, more far-reaching discussion of the issues.”
Assemb. Christine Pellegrino (D-West Islip), another lawmaker closely involved with putting on the event, said: “If there was ever a time when we are going to see real change, it is now.”
Burke is set to speak at 2 p.m. in SBU’s Student Activities Center. The online advance registration for the event, which is free with a suggested $25 donation, shows that it is completely booked.