The loudest applause at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night? When Susan Bro took the stage.
In between performances from pop stars, Rev. Robert Lee IV (a descendant of Civil War general Robert E. Lee) arrived into introduce Bro, whose daughter, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed in Charlottesville, Va., when a car ran into people who were protesting the white supremacist rally.
Bro made international headlines with her powerful eulogy at her daughter’s funeral two weeks ago. “They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,” Bro said. “I’d rather have my child, but by golly if I got to give her up, we’re going to make it count,” she said.
Lee started the tribute as he reminded the audience that the statue of his ancestor was at the center of the horrific violence in Charlottesville.
“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,” he 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.”
Lee then brought out Bro (“who is continuing to magnify Heather’s work”) to a standing ovation. Earlier in the day, MTV announced that Bro would give out the trophy for Best Fight Against the System, a newly created VMA award that honors music videos that inspire viewers to fight injustice. Here are Bro’s remarks in full.
“Thank you. I love you guys too. Only 15 days ago, my daughter Heather was killed as she protested racism. I miss her, but I know she is here tonight.
“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. Please visit our website to help me make Heather’s 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.
“In that spirit, MTV has decided to honor all six nominees for Best Fight Against the System. Through their diversity, these six videos show there are many ways to take action and many battlegrounds in the fight for social good.
“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 Lemar Hudson celebrated diversity. Taboo and Shailene Woodley rebelled against government exploitation.
“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.”
Though current events weren’t often mentioned by the celebrities at the VMAs, in the beginning of the show, actress Paris Jackson (the 19-year-old daughter of Michael Jackson) urged the audience to stand up and speak out against hate.
“Let’s leave here tonight remembering that we must show these Nazi white supremacist jerks in Charlottesville and all over the country that as a nation with liberty as our slogan, we have zero tolerance for their violence, their hatred, and their discrimination,” she said as the crowd cheered. “We must resist.”