All the celebrity drama aside, the true MVP of this year’s MTV Video Music Awards was none other than Susan Bro, the mother of slain Charlottesville hero Heather Heyer, who took the stage amid loud cheers and applause to speak about her daughter’s legacy and denounce racism.
To make the moment more poignant, Rev. Robert Lee IV — a direct descendant of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, whose statue provided an excuse for violence by white supremacists in Virginia — introduced the grieving mother to make an impassioned plea for unity.
“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,” 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. 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.”
The image of Lee IV standing hand-in-hand with the mother of a woman who was killed by a white supremacist was undoubtedly the most powerful moment of the awards show.
“Only 15 days ago, my daughter, Heather, was killed as she protested racism. I miss her, but I know she is here tonight,” Bro began. “I have been deeply moved to see people across the world, the whole world, find inspiration in her courage.”
She then announced the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation — a nonprofit that will “provide scholarships to help more people join Heather’s fight against hatred” and urged viewers to visit its website to help make her daughter’s tragic death count.
“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,” she added.
Bro also revealed MTV’s decision to honor all six nominees of “Fight Against the System” award, a newly created VMA category for music videos that inspire people to rise up and fight against injustice.
The winners included John Legend’s “Surefire,” Logic and Damian Lemar Hudson’s “Black SpiderMan,” Taboo and Shailene Woodley’s “Stand Up / Stand N Rock #NoDAPL” and The Hamilton Mixtape’s “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done),” among others.
“Through their diversity, these six videos show there are many ways to take action and many battlegrounds in the fight for social good,” Bro continued. “I congratulate all these artists on their VMA tonight. And I look forward to the important work that they, and all of you, will do together to make the world a better, kinder, place.”
Bro, who has been a figure of inspiration and bravery since her daughter’s death, also refused to speak with President Donald Trump, as she believes the White House wants to use the tragedy to their political benefit.
“I have not and now I will not” speak with Trump, she told ABC News earlier this month, after Trump conflated anti-racism protestors with neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Danny Moloshok