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Billboard Awards: Shawn Mendes, Khalid Perform with Parkland Students Protesting Gun Violence

Singer-Songwriter Shawn Mendes made a powerful statement in solidarity with gun violence victims at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, performing a song with members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School choir from Parkland, Florida.

Also joining them onstage was rising artist Khalid, who wore a shirt that read “Protect our guns” with a slash through the word “guns” and the word “children” replaced. 19-year-old Mendes lead the performance of his new single, “Youth”, while playing his guitar. The song thematically champions keeping one’s spirit up through difficult and heartbreaking times.

When Khalid delivered the line “I won’t let it turn into hate,” the students filed on to the sides of the stage to join along in the song, all dressed in hoodies that simply said “Youth”, matching the one Mendes himself wore.

The audience was visibly moved, with many seen on camera wiping away tears. The song ended with Mendes and Khalid embracing the choir members.

Mendes’s song is slated for his upcoming third album and was released several weeks after a former Stoneman Douglas student killed 17 people at the school in Parkland, Florida this past February.

This was not the only moment addressing gun violence at the awards show. At the opening, host Kelly Clarkson went off script to protest the idea of a “moment of silence” for the most recent gun tragedy, the Santa Fe school shooting on May 18. She pleaded for people to take action instead of staying quiet.

Shawn Mendes rose to fame as a singer in his early teens in 2013, after posting his performances on the social video app Vine. In 2015, his first full-length album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. He has been listed among “Time”’s The 25 Most Influential Teens in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

The Billboard Music Awards aired live on Sunday, May 20, on NBC from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

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