NORFOLK, Va. – Music mogul and Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams met with business leaders in the 757 at Norfolk State University in a forum he calls the "Elephant in the Room."
"We don’t have to agree on everything, but one thing none of us can deny is we’re Virginians. That same energy is what we what to push the business community to put into action," Williams said.
This forum coming on the heels of Williams saying he would not hold the Something in the Water festival in Virginia Beach due to "toxic energy" in the city and his disappointment with the city's response to the death of his cousin, Donovon Lynch.
When asked about how the City of Virginia Beach handled Lynch’s death, Williams said, “This forum is in response to how they handled that. It’s like... clearly you can’t care about me or you can't care about the event we put on. If you’re going to handle it like that, if you’re cool with it going down like that, then you got to do some soul searching.”
“What will it take to bring Something in the Water back to Virginia Beach?” News 3 reporter Leondra Head asked Williams.
“We’re not going to discuss that tonight because that is toxic. I don’t want to be a toxin; I want to be a nutrient. The exact opposite. I just want to give and help. That was a toxic situation that was very hurtful to me and my family, and we just want to move past that.”
Williams says he wants business leaders to invest in the Hampton Roads region.
“For too long, it’s been politics over profit. That just doesn’t make sense.”
An executive from investment management company BlackRock says minority business owners are over looked when it comes to funding.
“They [minorities] are under-capitalized and don’t have as much access to capital as other peers despite having better returns,” said Derrick Weatherspoon, a manager at BlackRock.
Williams says his goal is for people to leave the forum educated, unified and inspired.
“To have Pharrell Williams to shine a spotlight on the inequities as it relates to access to capital is that all people - not just Black and Brown, but all people - can experience wealth, success and prosperity. This is just the beginning of what’s to come,” Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander said.
“We are just ecstatic to be the host site of this forum. It’s so important to the region and also the country and nation,” said Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, the president of Norfolk State University.
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