Paris Jackson may have made a bold statement about fighting white supremacy in America at the 2017 MTV VMAs, but in all honesty, the most important moment both emotionally and politically didn’t involve a famous face. Instead, during the music award show, the most profound moment came when the mother of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer, Susan Bro, took to the VMAs stage to discuss the founding of the Heather Heyer Foundation and present the Fight Against the System Award for the evening.
As she took to the stage, it was clear that the audience was moved by her presence and the meaning of her presence. She began, “Only 15 days ago, my daughter, Heather, was killed as she protested racism. I miss her, but I know she is here tonight.” To this opening statement, the crowd applauded her, seemingly encouraging her to keep speaking. “I have been deeply moved to see people across the world, the whole world, find inspiration in her courage. Today, I am announcing the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation, a nonprofit organization that will provide scholarships to help more people join Heather’s fight against hatred.”
This announcement about the Heather Heyer Foundation garnered massive applause from the crowd. What made the moment even more impactful was when Bro announced that the Fight Against the System award would be handed out to all six of the category’s nominees. This was done in the hopes that showing people from all walks of life coming together to fight for the good and safety of others, just as Heyer had done, would help drive home a message of solidarity through diversity.
“Big Sean decried violence. Alessia Cara spoke out about body-shaming. The Hamilton mixtape 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,” she explained to the crowd.
Bro’s time on the stage was one of the biggest highlights of the evening and certainly one of the most impactful. It was a breath of fresh air to take a pause from the evening’s generally lighthearted proceedings, if only to remember that there’s a lot more happening in the world, things that demand our unity and our attention. Bro’s appearance at the 2017 MTV VMAs reminded us of that, and maybe we can all go forward and take a little piece of her daughter’s message of love and hope with us.