The 2017 MTV VMAs hit a poignant note toward the end of the evening, with two significant figures closely linked to the recent Charlottesville tragedy taking the stage.
Robert Lee IV, a direct descendant of Civil War general Robert E. Lee, was the first to speak onstage, flatly denouncing racism and white supremacy, both legacies that have long been tied to his ancestor.
“As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin,” he said as the audience applauded. “Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head on.”
Lee also noted that “we can all find inspiration from” the Black Lives Matter movement and the Women’s March – and, of course, from Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed by a white nationalist during the Charlottesville protests earlier this month.
Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, then stepped onstage to say a few words about her daughter’s legacy – and announce the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation, “a nonprofit organization that will provide scholarships to help more people join Heather’s fight against hatred.”
“I want people to know that Heather never marched alone,” she continued. “She was always joined by people of every race and every background in this country. In that spirit, MTV has decided to honor all six nominees for Best Fight Against the System.”
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The category’s six nominees – John Legend (“Surefire”), Alessia Cara (“Scars to Your Beautiful”), Logic and Damian Lemar Hudson (“Black SpiderMan”), Shailene Woodley and Taboo (“Stand Up/Stand N Rock”), Big Sean (“Light”) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Immigrants”) – were all presented with the award.
“Through their diversity, these six videos show their many ways to take action and many battlegrounds in the fight for social good,” Bro added. She and Lee exited the stage arm in arm.