MTV Video Music Awards show support for social justice

By: Shivani Gosai | Opinions Editor

This past Sunday, MTV held the annual Video Music Awards hosted by Katy Perry. The show itself was a boring disaster, with no help from Perry’s terrible jokes on topics like the Fyre Festival and fidget spinners. The show was carried by a few highlights, such as exceptional performances by stars like Kendrick Lamar and Miley Cyrus, and multiple statements by artists on various social injustices.

Paris Jackson, daughter of “King of Pop” Michael Jackson, made an appearance to present the award for Best Pop Video. During her speech, she addressed the events in Charlottesville and denounced white supremacists.

“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. “We must resist.”

P!nk accepted the MTV Video Vanguard award this year, but it was her speech that really made an impact that night. During her acceptance speech, she told a story of her 6 year-old daughter feeling “ugly” and believing that she “looked like a boy”. P!nk responded by giving examples of “androgynous rock stars” such as David Bowie, Prince, Janis Joplin and Freddie Mercury who inspire individuality. P!nk’s speech went on to criticize current social issues such as self-image and sexism by using herself as an example.

“They say I look like a boy or I’m too masculine or I have too many opinions, my body is too strong.” she said, “We don’t change. We take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl. And we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.”

Undeniably the most powerful performance on stage that night was when Logic performed his hit “1-800-273-8255,” an emotional song on the struggles of suicide, with Alessia Cara and Khalid. Before the performance, Kesha said a few words on the meaning behind the song and assured those that are struggling with mental illness that “none of us are alone”.

“We all have struggles, and as long as you never give up on yourself, light will break through the darkness,” she said.

The title of the single is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The lifeline’s Director of Communications Frances Gonzalez told Billboard that they experienced a 50 percent increase in calls after the performance. Toward the end of it, 50 attempt survivors took the stage, some crying and emotional, wearing shirts that read “You Are Not Alone.”

Logic’s short speech after the performance was just as moving:

“I am here to fight for your equality because I believe that we are all born equal, but we are not treated equally. And that is why we must fight. We must fight for the equality of every man, woman and child regardless of race, religion, color, creed and sexual orientation,” he said.

The show took a very political turn when Reverend Robert Lee IV, a descendent of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, whose statue motivated the unrest in Charlottesville, was introduced to the stage.

“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.

Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, spoke after Reverend Lee. She announced the scholarship foundation being created in her daughter’s name. The Heather Heyer Foundation will be a “nonprofit organization that will provide scholarships to help more people join Heather’s fight against hatred.”

While the VMA’s were lacking in excitement, it made up in its efforts to raise awareness. Had those emotional statements not been made, the show would have been ultimately ruined by Perry’s “woke” jokes and general cringeworthy stage presence. I applaud the MTV Video Music Awards for making one of their major themes this year to resist social injustice and protest the Trump administration. Multiple artists that evening used their platform to speak out on pressing issues, making the 2017 VMAs memorable for promoting social justice and equality.