NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – Grammy-winning musician Pharrell Williams on Saturday called on recent graduates from a historically black Virginia university in Virginia to act as “the emerging majority” and help grow businesses and the culture of the region.
Williams gave the early fall speech at Norfolk State University, not far from where the producer and rapper grew up in Virginia Beach.
âI didn’t attend Norfolk State, but I was still there,â said Williams. “I am honored to have incorporated this part of my job, my story and still today I look forward to seeing how far you amazing and awesome Norfolk State graduates … how far you will go.”
Williams received an honorary doctorate from the school and was also made an honorary member of the Norfolk State Marching Band – which made him cry, reported the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk.
Ahead of the presentation, Willams said he remembered the band as a child and wondered why his Virginia Beach high school band didn’t have the same ‘cadence’ as Norfolk State.
âI wanted to be able to make people feel what the band from Norfolk State made me feel,â he said.
Williams said the city of Norfolk will prosper because it recognizes how important it is to recognize past and local heroes: âNorfolk will not be the city that limits the potential of its people, but on the contrary, it will nurture them. “
He told listeners to do their part by spending money on local businesses that care and changing outdated language like the word ‘minorities’.
âWe are the emerging majority,â he said. âDon’t wait until election day. Vote with your wallet today, tomorrow and the next day.
Williams recently had a strained relationship with the city of Virginia Beach. He criticized the city months ago for its response to the death of his cousin, who was shot dead by a police officer in March on the city’s oceanfront. Two weeks ago, it was announced that a grand jury had determined the officer was justified in the fatal shooting.
Williams wrote to city officials last month to tell them he would not be bringing his Something in the Water music festival back to the city’s waterfront, in part because of the way the city has conducted the ‘investigation.