To introduce the VMAs newest category, the “Fight Against the System” award, MTV did things a bit differently by employing two real-world bearers of social justice.
Reverend Robert Wright Lee was first brought to the stage.
“My name is Robert Lee the fourth, I’m a descendant of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence in Charlottesville,” he explained.
“We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin. Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on. We can find inspiration in the black lives matter movement, the women who marched in the Women's March in January, and especially Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville.”
At that, Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, emerged with a speech of her own.
“Only 15 days ago my daughter Heather was killed as she protested racism. I miss her but I know she’s here tonight. I’ve been deeply moved to see people across the world, the whole world, find inspiration in her courage.”
RELATED VIDEO: VMAs By the Numbers
“Today I’m announcing the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation, a non-profit organization that will provide scholarships to help more people join Heather’s fight against hatred. Please visit our website to help make Heather’s death count,” she said. “Heather never marched alone; she was always joined by people of every race and every background in this country.”
Bro then introduced the six nominees and winners of the Fight Against the System award.
“In that spirit, MTV has decided to honor all six nominees for best fight against the system. In their diversity, these six videos show there are many ways to take action and many battlegrounds in the fight for social good.”
“Big Sean decried violence. Alessia Cara spoke out against body-shaming. The Hamilton mixed tape and John Legend both took on the targeting of immigrants. Logic and Damian Lemar Hudson celebrated diversity. Taboo and Shailene Woodley rebelled against government exploitation. I look forward to all the important work that they and you will do together to make the world a better, kinder place.”