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Tarana Burke On Cultivating A Sense of Place and Belonging

Tarana Burke On Cultivating A Sense of Place and Belonging

11/17/2021

We each deserve a home that makes us feel secure, comfortable, and loved. People need to be afforded space to rest, laugh, and be held by their loved ones—and Tarana Burke understands that dynamic first-hand. The 'me too' founder, survivor, activist, and author first fell for the Baltimore home she shares with her husband because it gave her a sense of place. She, in turn, wants to do the same for people visiting, "because if you are close enough to me to be invited into my home, then you will be privy to all of the comforts my home life has to offer." We were grateful that we were afforded that feeling of belonging when we visited Tarana to tour her newly renovated backyard. Sitting at her outdoor sofa, we discussed the need for secure, comfortable, and restorative spaces for activists and how she wants to make her guests feel appreciated when they visit. With the cooler months ahead, she also excitedly shared advice on entertaining as well as tips for transitioning your outdoor space for the changing seasons. Read on for more.

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Congratulations on your new memoir Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement! You delve into your own journey into founding the 'me too Movement,' what is the lesson you carried with you most during your years as an activist?

The idea that change is possible if you can move people. Once people are bound by a common cause and moving with a common vision, anything is possible.

There has been a recent recognition that activists and survivors need to be afforded the space for rest. Can you talk about the role safe, secure, and comfortable homes play for people?

I cannot say *enough* about this. This work is hard and nonstop. If you live a life that is committed to social change, it sometimes requires being on call. And while the visibility increases your platform, it also increases your vulnerability. Our homes should be our sanctuaries. They should be full of things that make us feel secure and comfortable and loved. One of the biggest draws of my house was the sense of place it gave me when I entered. I felt like I belonged. As a survivor, that is something I crave because it's so helpful when you feel out of sorts. 

Similarly, was creating a restorative space a priority for your own home? What brings you joy at home?

Creating restorative places inside and out of my home was super important to meespecially during this pandemic. I wanted a variety of areas that spoke to different needs. I wanted a place to be still and reflective, a place to be indulgent, a place to be cozy, a thinking place, a fellowship place, a restful place—and I created all of that. 

 

How do you want people to feel when they walk into your home?

I want people to feel warm and welcomed, and I want them to understand that they are being cared for in a very particular way because if you are close enough to me to be invited into my home, then you will be privy to all of the comforts my home life has to offer. 

We loved working with you on your outdoor refresh. What was your inspiration to update your space?

Our backyard was overgrown and unkempt when we bought the house. I had no idea what to do with it, so I had the landscaper completely clear it so that I could see what we actually had. Once he did, I was inspired by the openness and the calm feeling that the space gave me. The outdoor furniture from Lulu and Georgia is all very chic and clean but also cozy. I achieved the aesthetic inside my house, and L&G is in every room, so I wanted to bring that feeling outside.

As it starts to get a little chillier, our outdoor spaces are meant to transform a bit to become cozier. What are your three tips for transitioning your outdoor space for the colder months? 

I am actually MORE excited about being outside in the cooler months because it feels so good in the crisp, fresh air. I would suggest anyone living in cooler weather be sure to do the following:

  1. Be sure to have a reliable source of heat. If you are using gas, have your lines checked to be sure there are no issues. If you are using propane, be sure to get your tanks ahead of time and practice safety, and if it's wood—stock up! 
  2. Heat lamps have come a long way! Don't settle for the clunky traditional kind—check out some of the more updated, chic versions to keep your aesthetic updated!
  3. Be sure to have comfy furniture. There are few things better than cozying up on an oversized couch or comfy chair, wrapping up in a blanket, and watching a fire. And I'll add a tip - bring your entertainment outside! Cozy up and set up the projector to watch movies in your backyard. 

 

What is your favorite tip for entertaining as we all begin to prepare for the holiday season?

My favorite tip for entertaining is: It's not about you! Lots of folks entertain to show off their homes or the things in them but to truly entertain, you should be thinking about what would make your guest feel the most welcomed, loved, and appreciated. Find out things like their favorite comfort foods, drinks, and music beforehand if you don't know, and be sure to have it and put the animals away if they are allergic or sensitive. I love to let my guests know that their experience in my home is all about them—especially at the holidays, which are my absolute favorite time of the year. I start early. I jot down notes all year of things people say they want or like. I have the following year's theme mostly thought out the year before to buy it on sale and store it. I love having family over, and I absolutely *love* surprises. I just love to see the utter joy fill a person's face when they realize someone was thinking about them when they didn't even know it. 

You live and work in Baltimore. How do you like to spend your (albeit) limited free time?

In my backyard with my husband! We love to sit outside and grill and eat or just kick back and listen to music. It's our favorite thing to do.

You're obviously a movement leader that people turn to. Are there others, whether inside or out of the movement, that inspire and support you?

I have a very close-knit family and friend group. I feel loved and supported by them all of the time. Inside the movement, there are amazing Black women who do seemingly, completely different work but know that our work is all connected and they inspire and support me in numerous ways. 

Your work never stops. What's next for you?

Well, I put out two books this year, including my first memoir, Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement. I am tired. So next is a bit of rest and recharging. I plan to continue writing, and this coming year marks five years since the viral #metoo hashtag, so I, along with my organization, me too International, plan to spend the year showcasing what #metoo has made possible. 

 

Photography provided by Tarana Burke