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Updated by Kendra Brea Cooper on Aug 25, 2014
Headline for Taking the Stage: 6 Socially Important Moments at the 2014 VMAs
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Taking the Stage: 6 Socially Important Moments at the 2014 VMAs

Last night's VMAs were about music and entertainment, but there were moments where artists took to the platform to take full advantage of the moment. This wasn't to perform, it was to verbally break down the walls around the audience and pull in some of the most important issues of our time to place them directly on the stage.

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Why the Stage Matters

Why the Stage Matters

While the MTV VMAs are produced for handing out awards to the biggest in the business, the lights, platform, and cameras provide an opportunity, even if small, to break the pop culture discussion for more pressing issues. While these small breaks might not rock the world, invading the dream world for a moment leaves a mark on the mind.

Common Honored Mike Brown with a Moment of Silence for Justice

Before introducing the award for best Hip Hop video, Common took to the stage to discuss the fight for justice taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. Plastered all over the news and threaded by hashtag over twitter, the news of the murder of 18 year old Mike Brown by a police officer enraged not only the people of Ferguson, but people all over the world. Common called for a moment of silence in an event about noise, and it was beautiful.

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Common on Hip Hop

Common on Hip Hop

Common mentioned the power of hip hop music in social justice while talking about Mike Brown. Hip Hop is poetry and words are powerful because they're all we have to describe the world around us. With it's history and technique by using words that matter, Common is right when he claims that Hip Hop has "always been a powerful instrument of social change".

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Miley Cyrus Gave Away her Platform

Miley Cyrus Gave Away her Platform

Miley won the video of the year award for "Wrecking Ball" and instead of strolling on stage to accept, she sent her friend up. Her friend Jesse accepted the award by shining the VMA light on the problem of youth homelessness in Los Angeles. Miley, a very privileged young woman, stepped aside and made space for another voice to be heard during an event made for very specific, and powerful voices. Stepping aside isn't something we see often.

Jesse on Homelessness in Los Angeles

Miley's give away to the platform of television privilege was important because Jesse was able to use his words to make visible those who are swept off to the side in the city of broken promises and dreams. Jesse's speech had the building silent, it was a message that hit hard in a room that was made for the celebration of success. Even in the short time he had, he addressed structural issues by saying "I've cleaned your hotel rooms, I've been an extra in your movies, I've been an extra in your life".

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Beyonce and the F Word

Beyonce and the F Word

Beyonce glided on stage with the word "feminist" behind her in huge letters across a screen during the most anticipated performance of the night. Whether or not you think Beyonce is a feminist, this action in itself carries influence. She took a word that is often shunned and misunderstood, and made it central to her performance. This might ripple in many directions for feminism, but words have power, and this moment made waves.