US singer receives award for speaking out against gun violence after school shooting
Watch the moment when Rihanna was honored as a national hero
As the mother of a baby, Rihanna cannot imagine what it would be like to lose her child.
On Monday the singer was given the US National Hero Award for leading the fight to stop gun violence after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, last month left 17 people dead.
About 400 people attended the award ceremony in Washington, DC, and the media were banned from the event but the recording of the audience’s cheers and applause was posted to social media by two members of Congress.
Rihanna’s work to improve gun laws was made even more poignant by the death last week of Jayme Closs, whose abduction by a Wisconsin hunter in October led to an outpouring of support for the cause that has been championed by celebrities including Michael Rapaport.
The ceremony took place on Thursday, with the singer accepting the award from the speakers and comics Ellen DeGeneres and Jim Gaffigan.
Rihanna with Brad Pitt. Photograph: FilmMagic
The former Nickelodeon star Lisa Hartmann said: “Today we have a unique chance to make a difference. Since you came forward so much publically, so powerfully, we’ve seen other gun-violence survivors come forward.
“Over 200 families from New York state alone have lost someone in the schools in Newtown, Sandy Hook, Columbine. I think, unfortunately, the stigma surrounding this issue is beginning to fade. It doesn’t make it any easier to lose a child, but these tragedies are starting to shake the complacency of an almost apathetic society.”
After the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, she was one of many celebrities criticised for failure to speak out on the tragedy.
In an op-ed for Billboard last month, she wrote: “There is a new normal in this country – and it’s tragic. We have to be smart and effective when we propose solutions to prevent future massacres, so that the high-profile mass shootings fade into history.”
It has also been reported that shortly after the Parkland shooting last month, Rihanna, 29, pledged to donate a further $500,000 to the Broward Education Fund, which is helping the families of those killed.
According to reports, the funds are being donated in her own name, through an unnamed US-based non-profit organization, with the remainder of the money to be raised privately.
Rihanna, who was born in Barbados but grew up in the US, helped launch the non-profit Clara Lionel Foundation, which supports underprivileged youth with education.