Political and social commentary struck a major chord at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards.
At a ceremony typically dedicated to honoring music’s biggest stars for their professional achievements, the trophy-giving took a definitive backseat as a series of celebrities and public figures devoted their stage time to addressing divisive real-world issues.
The show’s most powerful moment occurred when Susan Bro – the mother of slain Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer – took the stage with a descendant of Confederate Civil War general Robert E. Lee to vehemently denounce hatred and racism as she announced The Heather Heyer Foundation in her daughter’s honor.
“I want people to know that Heather never marched alone. She was always joined by people from every race and every background in this country,” said Bro.
MTV Video Music Awards 2017: Full list of winners
Her 32-year-old daughter was killed on Aug. 12, when a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd where she was counter-protesting against a hate-filled rally in Charlottesville, Va.
White nationalist and neo-Nazis descended upon Charlottesville two weeks ago to protest the removal of a statue of Lee, a controversial figure due to his standing within the Confederacy. At Sunday’s award show, the Rev. Robert Lee IV also spoke out against hate before introducing Heyer’s mother.
“It is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin,” Lee said.
“Today, I call on all of us, with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on.”
Heather Heyer’s mother, Robert E. Lee IV denounce racism at VMAs
The memorable segment was one of many denouncements of hate and inequality at this year’s VMAs, following up the night’s first presenter, Paris Jackson, slamming the neo-Nazis and white nationalists at the center of violence at the beginning of the show.
“We must show these Nazi, white supremacist jerks in Charlottesville, and all over the country, that as a nation with liberty as our slogan we have zero tolerance for their violence, their hatred and their discrimination,” the 19-year-old Jackson declared to a roaring crowd.
“We must resist!”
VMAs host Katy Perry, meanwhile, indirectly addressed the current global turmoil by holding up a fake newspaper headlined “The World Is On Fire,” while Kesha and the rapper Logic made a powerful statement about suicide prevention.
Pink promotes self-acceptance in moving speech at MTV VMAs
Jared Leto also assured those battling depression that they’re not alone during a moving tribute to late rockers Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, while the pop star Pink used her voice to preach self-acceptance while telling a story about how her 6-year-old daughter Willow struggled with her appearance.
“We don’t change, we take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl,” said Pink, who received the night’s Video Vanguard lifetime achievement award. “We help other people to change so that they can see more kinds of beauty.”
Perry sent love to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, which has caused tremendous damage and flooding in southeastern Texas since making landfall last Friday.
“We are praying for your safety and the days to come, and we stand with you as you rebuild because, we’re all in this together,” Perry said, urging viewers to visit redcross.org to help.
In terms of awards, Kendrick Lamar was the night’s big winner, taking home six Moon Person trophies including Video of the Year for “Humble.” Lamar also provided a captivating opening act for the show by performing “Humble” and “D.N.A.” on a stage covered in a fire.
Taylor Swift also managed to steal the show without even being present by premiering the music video for her buzzy – and uncharacteristically dark – new single “Look What You Made Me Do.” The video featured Swift, dressed as a zombie, emerging from a grave in what appeared to be a metaphor for her burying her old image in favor of a new, edgier one.
The pop star and Zayn Malik, who was also not present, won the award for best collaboration for their song “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever.”
Swift’s good friend Ed Sheeran was another big winner, earning artist of the year honors while also performing “Shape of You” early on at the show. Other major winners included Khalid, who was named best new artist, and the girl group Fifth Harmony, which won the best pop award for “Down,” their song with Gucci Mane.
Fifth Harmony was among a long list of performers at the VMAs that also included Demi Lovato, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Alessia Cara and, for the finale, Perry and Nicki Minaj, who sang their song “Swish Swish.”
Send a Letter to the Editor