The only thing better than one proactive and accomplished Black female author and activist coming to the Free Library of Philadelphia’s main Arch Street branch this week, is two.
First, actor Gabrielle Union, the author of 2917’s best-selling ‘We’re Going To Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated and True,’ heads to the Philly Free Library (in an all-virtual format) on Wednesday, Sept. 15, to discuss her latest, autobiographical tome, ‘You Got Anything Stronger?’
Then, on Friday, Sept. 17, one-time Philly-based activist Tarana Burke – the woman who founded the Me Too movement in 2006 for women to come together with shared experiences of sexual violence – will discuss ‘Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement’ with Imani Perry.
“We’re excited to have both author activists return to Philadelphia—if only in the virtual format,” says Andy Kahan, the Director of Author Events at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the man responsible for curating and booking each conversation.
“We had more than 700 people for Gabrielle Union when she came to the library for her last bestseller and her star has only continued to rise. Tarana Burke lived in Philadelphia and worked at several nonprofits, including Art Sanctuary with whom we’ve partnered many times over the years. Frankly, we’ve been waiting for her to tell her story in a book—and the wait is finally over. We’re excited.”
Pouring through Union’s second book, ‘You Got Anything Stronger?,’ the actor and author moves beyond the ardent discussions about mental health, sexual assault advocacy, social injustice and systemic racism that put her in the activist hot seat in the first place. Famously, she’s led protests against George Zimmerman for his murder of an unarmed Black youth, Trayvon Martin, advocated for survivors of assault (particularly young women), and, last year, won a settlement from NBC, FremantleMedia and its production associates after she was removed from her judging post at 2019’s iteration of ‘America’s Got Talent’ after one season, after she complained about the network’s toxic work environment – including being threatened by network executives and having network hairstylists allegedly call her preferred tonsorial styles “too Black” for television.
“I will always want to be a part of creating a safer space for everyone who has a dream who comes to this crazy town and just wants a chance,” Union is quoted as saying at that time about her tumultuous relationship, then, with NBC. “The more that we stand up and speak out for injustice anywhere and everywhere, we cover all of us.”
Union’s 2021 ‘You Got Anything Stronger?’ memoir follows her passion and advocacy while discussing the agism rampant in society, beyond Hollywood (she’s 48), into her frustrating struggles to conceive a child. Misdiagnosed for ages, it was discovered, eventually that she had adenomyosis – where endometrial tissue grows into muscles along the uterine wall, thickens and makes conception and carrying a child to term troublesome, if not impossible. Union captures this physical, emotional, and spiritual trial with grace, guts and humor, which makes for an amazing read.
Like Union, Burke pulls no punches in an autobiography detailing the creation and formation of Me Too. Burke’s slings and arrows, however, land even harder – often portraying her own, very real and lingering physical and psychological ramifications as a victim of abuse. ‘Unbound’ also finds Burke, pragmatically, using her abuse—and separating herself with blunt objectivity—as a weapon to wield in the journey that was, and is, #MeToo. A lifetime of trauma becomes Burke’s sharpest tool in aiding other Black and Brown women, and all women collectively.
The fact that ‘Unbound’ comes out Sept. 14—weeks after Time’s Up lost its CEO and President Tina Tchen due to her involvement in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment investigation, followed by the resignation of Time’s Up’s board including Eva Longoria,, Shonda Rhimes and Jurnee Smollet—is not lost on Burke. During a recent interview with Marie Claire magazine, she called Time’s Up an organization that is a part of a larger movement.
“There’s been good work that’s happened [with Time’s Up] and big mistakes that have happened. And that happens in all kinds of organizations. Time’s Up is not #MeToo. The future of this movement is bigger than any one organization; it’s bigger than any one country.”
Surely, the good and bad will be dissected by Burke in a frank manner, just as she does everything else in ‘Unbound.’
Gabrielle Union will discuss ‘You Got Anything Stronger?’ on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 1 p.m. Cost is $37, which includes a signed book. Tarana Burke will discuss ‘Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement’ on Friday, Sept. 17, at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $34, which includes a copy of the book and signed book plate. Both events will be held virtually. For information or to purchase tickets, visit freelibrary.org/calendar.