Robert E. Lee's descendant gave a powerful speech at this year's VMAs
Nearly three weeks on from the atrocities, the world is still in a state of shock following the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Leaving 19 people injured with a further three having lost their lives, politicians, civilians and celebrities alike have paid tribute to those afflicted by the violence, as well as condemning the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis heavily involved in the violence.
On August 12, violence broke out following a protest in Charlottesville by white nationalists who opposed the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee. 20-year-old James Fields has been charged with murder after he drove a car into a group of counter-protesters, fatally injuring 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Now, two people with a personal stake in the Charlottesville violence have spoken up, using the platform of this year's MTV Video Music Awards to make powerful statements against racism. Heyer's mother Susan Bro and Robert Lee IV, a direct descendant of Robert E Lee, appeared at the VMAs with plenty to say.
"We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate," said Robert Lee IV, who is a pastor operating out of North Carolina at the Bethany United Church of Christ. He called on the gathered masses at the VMAs to tackle white supremacy head on, describing racism as "America's original sin".
"My name is Robert Lee IV, I’m a descendant of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of 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.
"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."
Once Lee had finished his speech, he welcomed Susan Bro, Heather Heyer's mother, onto the stage, where the grieving mother delivered a moving speech to champion the American values her daughter died to protect, announcing the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation, which she hopes will "provide scholarships to help more people join Heather's fight against hatred".
"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... Heather never marched alone. She was always joined by people from every race and every background in this country."
Though the Video Music Awards are ostensibly about celebrating musicians and their work over the past few months, this year's VMAs had a decidedly stirring theme of social justice, especially in the wake of Charlottesville violence. Heather Heyer may no longer be with us following the events from earlier this month, but these speeches prove that her cause has been far from forgotten.