"Burke was born in The Bronx, New York, and raised in the area. She grew up in a low-income, working-class family in a housing project and was raped and sexually assaulted both as a child and a teenager. Her mother supported her recovery from these violent acts and encouraged her to be involved in the community. In her biography Burke states that these experiences inspired her to work to improve the lives of girls who undergo extreme hardships. As a teenager, she became involved in working to improve the lives of young girls living in marginalized communities.Burke attended Alabama State University then transferred and graduated from Auburn University. During her time in college, she organized press conferences and protests regarding economic and racial justice."