Heather Heyer's mother and Robert E. Lee descendant speak at MTV's VMA Awards

The 2017 MTV Music Video Awards were by no means short of socio-political commentary. It ranged from Kendrick Lamar’s dramatic opening number to an impassioned plea for suicide and mental health awareness, a quiet monologue delivered toward the end of the broadcast that overshadowed all the more dramatic moments of the evening.

The Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV, a descendant of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, took the stage at Sunday’s awards show to plead for social justice against racism. Lee publicly supported the removal of the statue of his ancestor in Charlottesville, Va., as well as similar monuments, while denouncing the tragic violence that surrounded these events — including the killing of 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer.

2017 MTV Video Music Awards
Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, the activist killed during a rally in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month, is joined on stage by Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards. (Photo: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

“My name is Robert Lee IV. I am a descendant of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence,” he told the audience. “We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism as 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. Lee then introduced Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, who had a special announcement for the broadcast.

“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,” she told the crowd. “Heather never marched alone. She was always joined by people from every race and every background in this country.”

She also explained MTV’s part in the endeavor in the form of a new award category: Best Fight Against the System.

“Through their diversity, the six videos show there are many ways to take action and many battlegrounds in the fight for social good,” she noted. “Big Sean decries violence. Alessia Cara spoke out about body shaming. The Hamilton mixtape and John Legend both took on the targeting of immigrants. Logic and Damian Lamar celebrated diversity. They rebelled against government exploitation.”

Those who are interested in contributing to the cause can find the foundation’s website here.

The 2017 MTV Music Video Awards aired live from Los Angeles on Aug. 27.

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