The Teen Choice Awards' Tribute To Victims Of Gun Violence Made A Powerful Statement

On Sunday evening, the mood of the normally raucous Teen Choice Awards changed for a few minutes when actress and entrepreneur Jessica Alba appeared on stage to speak out about the epidemic of gun violence that's holding the country hostage. During the Teen Choice Awards' tribute to victims of gun violence, she was joined on stage by the teenage relatives of recent victims, including the son of Alton Sterling. The room was silent as each family member introduced themselves and Alba filled out their story of loss, which included victims of the tragedies in Aurora, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Minneapolis, Orlando, San Bernadino, and Newton. The relatives of those lost in these acts of violence stood together to create a powerful image of the human impact of violence. "It keeps happening, and it has to stop," Alba said. "Many of those impacted by these acts of violence are teens."

Little brothers, nephews, mothers, cousins, and fathers were all spoken for during the tribute. Photographs of their relatives' smiling faces loomed behind the special guests as they spoke. "Tonight we stand together with these teens, united in our call for peace and an end to this violence," Alba announced. The call for support was answered. Teen Choice Awards nominees, presenters, and attendees cheered for the teens and made hands with their hearts from the audience.

The segment with the families of the victims led into a performance by Ne-Yo. Alba introduced his special cover by saying, "Now, more than ever, we need to stop, feel, and ask: what's going on?" Ne-Yo launched into a heartfelt performance of a protest song that Marvin Gaye co-wrote and made famous. The lyrics of "What's Going On?", though it was released in 1971, are just as relevant today. ("Don't punish me with brutality.") The slide show of the human face of gun violence continued throughout the song. Ne-Yo was surrounded by candles, but also by images of victims laughing with friends, survivors propping each other up, and activists making their voices heard. Cell phones lit up the entire theater.

At the conclusion of the song, Alba and the victims' families joined Ne-Yo on the performance stage for a call to action. "These teens had the courage to come here and share their grief and take a stand," Alba said. "And tonight Ne-Yo, and I, and all of us here, and all of you watching, we need to do the same."

"We need to come together as one," Ne-Yo said. "Now if you feel as we do that we have to do better, we need you all to stand up right now and take our your phones." Once those phones were back out, attendees were asked to take a picture of those grieving relatives and post it on social media with the hashtag #StopTheViolence. The Teen Choice Awards anti-gun violence hashtag began trending on Twitter almost immediately.

From Justin Timberlake's speech to the show's Presidential poll to this tribute, the 2016 Teen Choice Awards promoted a running theme: that teenagers have the ability to make a difference, the right to be listened to, and just as much at stake as any adult.