The Weeknd used his VMA victory speeches Sunday to call for social justice.
As he took home the top prize of the night at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards Sunday night, the "In Your Eyes" singer admitted that it would be "hard to celebrate" his awards, given the social injustices revolving the killing of Breonna Taylor and shooting of Jacob Blake at the hands of police.
After opening the show with a performance of "Blinding Light," the 30-year-old singer accepted the award for Best R&B video with a straight face and a clear message.
"It's really hard for me to celebrate right now and enjoy this moment, so I'm just going to say justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor," he said, after thanking his creative director La Mar Taylor and Anton Tammi, who directed the "Blinding Lights" music video.
Taylor, a Black EMT from Louisville, Kentucky, was shot eight times and killed in her own apartment on March 13. She was 26. Since her death — and the killing of George Floyd — activists, celebrities and protesters have called for the arrest of Taylor's killers.
Blake's shooting led to protests across the country in the last week, including within American sports leagues, beginning with the NBA and WNBA.
"Why did they shoot me so many times?" he asked his father after regaining consciousness.
The "Starboy" singer went on the VMA stage in the same bruised face look and red suit with which he opened the show. The look is a recreation of the one featured in the "Blinding Lights" video and After Hours album cover.
At the end of the night, the singer returned to the stage to accept the most-coveted VMA: video of the year for "Blinding Lights."
"Again, hard to celebrate so I'm going to say justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor," he said in front of a virtual audience, repeating the same message.
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"I have nothing bad to say about Usher. The sweetest, most down-to-earth guy ever," the "Starboy" singer told Esquire
For video of the year, he was nominated against Billie Eilish's "Everything I Wanted," Eminem's "Godzilla," Future's "Life Is Good," Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande's "Rain on Me" and Taylor Swift's "The Man."
The Weeknd wasn't the only artist to call attention to racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement during the VMAs. During her opening monologue, host Keke Palmer gave a nod to the young people fighting for racial justice.
"And with the Black Lives Matter movement, we've seen our generation step up, take to the streets and make sure our voices will be heard," she said. "Enough is enough."
"What we just witnessed in Kenosha, Wisconsin is yet another devastating reminder that we can't stop that we can never tolerate police brutality, or any injustice, we must continue the fight to end systemic racism," the 27-year-old added, referring the shooting of Blake. "The leaders of that movement are you, us, the people watching tonight. It's our time to be the change we want to see. We need to come together and music."
This also isn't the first time The Weeknd uses his platform to speak up for racial justice. In June, the Canada-born singer donated half a million dollars to various causes associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
"Keep supporting our brothers and sisters out there risking everything to push for actual change for our black lives," he captioned a post that included receipts of his donations."Urging everyone with big pockets to give and give big and if you have less please give what you can even if it's a small amount. #blacklivesmatter"
"'So give me a stage where this bull here can rage ... that's entertainment,'" he captioned the side-by-side, quoting from the film.
The singer was up for six awards and won his first two VMAs on Sunday. He was nominated this year for artist of the year and the video for his smash hit "Blinding Lights" was also up for best direction, cinematography, editing and song of the summer.
On Sunday night, he shared a clip of his performance on Instagram and followed it with a post thanking his fans.
"I forgot to thank my fans. None of this exists without ya'll. Xo," he wrote.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
- ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
•National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.