2014 MTV VMAs Address Social Unrest and Protests in Ferguson

Aug 24, 2014 10:15pm

MTV chose the words of James Baldwin, a writer who tackled the issues of racial and sexual discrimination in his novels and stories, for a public service announcement addressing the racial unrest in Ferguson, Mo., that aired tonight during the 2014 Video Music Awards.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin’s powerful line was used during the 15-second PSA, set in front of a black and white photo of the Ferguson [est. 1894] city sign.

In the background, a crowd repeating “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” could also be heard.

The St. Louis suburb has been the scene of daily demonstrations since an unarmed 18-year-old, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a police officer.

MTV President Stephen Friedman told the Washington Post that phrases like those heard from peaceful protesters have become “the activist rallying points that echo around the country.”

The video segment ends with the call to #LookDifferent.

The PSA came a few commercial breaks after rapper Common took a moment of silence for Ferguson and Michael Brown in the middle of the evening.

“The people in Ferguson and St Louis and communities across the county have used their voice to call for change and let everyone know each one of our lives matter,” he said. “Hip hop has always been about truth and been a powerful instrument for social change.”

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