If there’s one thing Grammy award winning artist Pharrell Williams is going to do, it’s put on for his home state of Virginia.
The Something In The Water Festival creator hosted a forum of national and local corporate leaders with a presence in Virginia to engage in a discussion on the potential of Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
Pharrell Williams first took to the stage to introduce and discuss the importance of the Forum, asking our leaders to prioritize profit over politics, and to not let race, gender, sexual identification or orientation get in the way of creating businesses and job opportunities for all. Then, the forum was dissected into three parts, Who We’ve Been, Who We Are Now and Who We’ll Become.
“It’s better to be diverse, and it’s better to be inclusive, and it’s better to be equitable to all human beings. If you have blood in your veins, and a brain in your head, and a heart in your chest, then you should be welcome to all places of business,” says Pharrell Williams.
He added, “I don’t think one person, or one group, should control anything. I think what we should do is open the doors as much as we can, tear the roof off, and allow more opportunities in here.”
The forum comes following Pharrell’s open letter to Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney citing the ongoing “toxic energy” of the city’s leadership. This contributed to his decision to pull his now infamous Something In The Water Festival which reportedly brought a total $24.11 million economic boost to the city. He specifically addressed the city’s lack of adequate response to a violent shooting on the waterfront in March of this year that tragically claimed the life of his cousin Donovan Lynch.
Panel speakers, who spoke about investments in culture, talent and other economic opportunities, included Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at NSU, Craig Robins, CEO of Dacra and Real Estate Developer, Deirdre Love, Executive Director of Teens with a Purpose, Derrick Weatherspoon, Senior Portfolio Manager at BlackRock, Drew Ungvarsky, CEO Grow + Assembly in Norfolk, Eric Claville, Public Policy Expert at NSU, Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition, Nat Zilkha, Partner, KKR, Pusha T, Musician and Entrepreneur, Shai Zelering, Managing Director at Brookfield and Real Estate Developer, Shu Nyatta, Softbank Opportunity Fund, and more.