Pharrell Williams hosted a panel called “Elephant in the Room” on Friday, joining Virginia corporate leaders in a discussion regarding the potential of the cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk in the star’s home state.
“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,” Williams said. “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.”
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Williams co-moderated a series of panels: “Who We’ve Been,” “Who We Are Now” and “Who We’ll Become,” with Virginia Beach native Ryan Shadrick Wilson, founder of Boardwalk Collective and senior advisor to the Center for Public Health at the Milken Institute.
“Who We’ve Been” addressed the cities’ progress through their recent decades of expansion; “Who We Are Now” highlighted panelists who are currently investing in communities around the country; and “Who We’ll Become” had panelists sharing what attracts them to cities as a corporate HQ or an outpost.
Panel speakers included: Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at NSU; Craig Roberts, CEO of Dacra and real estate developer; Deidre Love, executive director of Teens With A Purpose; Derrick Weatherspoon, senior portfolio manager at BlackRock; Drew Ungvarsky, CEO of Grow + Assembly in Norfolk; Eric Claville, public policy expert at NSU; Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition; Nat Zilkha, partner at KKR; Pusha T, musician and entrepreneur; Shai Zelering, managing director at Brookfield and real estate developer, and Shu Nyatta from Softbank Opportunity Fund, among others.
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