Kelsea Ballerina Honors Nashville Shooting Victims

“I wanted to personally stand here and share this moment because on August 21, 2008, I saw Ryan McDonald, my 15-year-old Central High School classmate, lose his life to a pistol in our cafeteria,” Kelsea Ballerini said at the outset of Sunday’s event.

Kelsea Ballerini
Source: People

Kelsea Ballerina Mentions Nashville Shooting Victims in CMT Awards 

Country superstar Kelsea Ballerini hosted the 2023 CMT Music Awards in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, paying tribute to the victims of last week’s shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School and sharing her personal experience with campus violence, before enlisting several RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni for a presumed protest against Tennessee’s new law criminalizing campus violence.

Relates it to her Past

“On March 27, 2023, three 9-year-olds — Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, and Hallie Scruggs — came into the Covenant School and didn’t walk out,” choked up Kelsea Ballerini, who co-hosted this year’s CMT Awards with Kane Brown, stated at the commencement of the evening. “The outpouring of grief over this and the 130 mass shootings in the United States this year spreads from coast to coast.” I wanted to personally stand here and share this moment because on August 21, 2008, Ryan McDonald, my 15-year-old Central High School classmate, was killed by a pistol in our cafeteria. Tonight’s program is dedicated to the rising number of family members, friends, survivors, bystanders, and rescuers whose lives have been irrevocably altered by violence. I fervently hope that the connection and togetherness that we experience during the next several hours of the song will soon translate into action — genuine action — that propels us ahead together to effect change for the protection of our children and loved ones.”

The Trauma Is Still There

In an interview  last year, Kelsea Ballerini discussed the cafeteria shooting she witnessed as a student at Knoxville’s Central High School, which “forced [her] into counseling,” noting, “I still suffer from PTSD [from the massacre].” Because I’m a performer and spend a lot of time onstage, I need to know if there’s pyro around, or else it’s not going to be a good day for me.” Ballerini’s poem “His Name Was Ryan,” which appears in her introspective 2021 poetry book Feel Your Way Through, was inspired by McDonald’s death – a writing experience she says helped her process her pain.

More About the News

Later in the show, Kelsea Ballerini was joined by four Drag Race fan favorites — Season 3’s Manila Luzon, Season 7’s Kennedy Davenport, Season 12’s Jan, and Season 13’s Olivia Lux — for a fun, campy, picket-fenced performance of her recent hit single “If You Go Down (I’m Going Down Too),” complete with the queens dressed in retro desperate-housewives eleganza. During the CMT Awards, Ballerini tweeted, “If you fall, I’m going down too / Thank you to these legendary queens… for promoting love, self-expression, and performance.”

Kelsea Ballerini
Source: CNN

During Sunday’s event, Ballerini wasn’t the only country diva making a political statement. Shania Twain used her moment on the stage to urge that the country music business “bridge the gap and give an equitable workplace for all talent” while winning CMT’s special Equal Play Award, which celebrates musicians who push for diversity in country music.

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