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Pharrell Williams to Host Star-Studded The Mighty Dream Forum in His Hometown of Virginia

Pharrell Williams to Host Star-Studded The Mighty Dream Forum in His Hometown of Virginia

Today, GRAMMY Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated Musician and Filmmaker, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist Pharrell Williams revealed additional guest speakers and details regarding his first-of-its-kind gathering designed to facilitate idea exchange, networking, and progressive conversation about matters of diversity, equity and inclusion, MIGHTY DREAM FORUM.

Since its initial announcement in September, the three-day event has only continued to gain momentum, and has quickly emerged as THE place where business and opportunity intersect with community and culture. Pharrell has been impressed and more importantly, inspired, by how business leaders have accepted his invitation to convene at MIGHTY DREAM FORUM in his home state of Virginia:

“I am blown away by the willingness of so many business leaders to jump into this conversation. That in itself is progress. They know that this is not only an important conversation, but just good business. If we can come together and demonstrate that doing the right thing for people is also the right thing for business, and we start to outline a playbook of what works and what doesn’t, then we’ll be successful.” 

– Pharrell Williams 


The Business Elite Descend Upon Norfolk, Virginia

MIGHTY DREAM has music, sports and comedic talent, but the focus is definitely business. “I have a festival filled with rockstars called ‘Something In The Water.’ For MIGHTY DREAM, the business leaders get to be the rockstars,” Pharrell added.

The forum will feature leaders from the world of finance, consumer brands, academia and beyond. Confirmed participants include leaders from Andreessen Horowitz, ARES Management, Bicycle Capital, Brinc, BlackRock, BNY Mellon, ICONIQ Capital, Goldman Sachs, Lightspeed Venture Partners and more to be announced from the world of global finance. Others such as Allbirds, Boeing, Chegg, Cisco, Gilead Foundation, The Guardian US (media), Google, H&M Group, LVMH, McDonald’s, NASA, NBA, Sentara Healthcare, Tech Equity Collective, a Google Initiative, Universal Music Group, Unreasonable Group, Walton Family Foundation,and Yelp! are all contributing leaders and their perspectives to the forum. Leaders from Mighty Dream, Edelman, Ernst & Young, The Martin Agency, McKinsey, Publicis Groupe, Publicis Health and others from the world of consulting, media, and communications will share their experiences as well.

Notable advocates including Bayo Akomolafe, Afdhel Aziz, Aaron Mitchell, Christiana Musk, NBA star Joakim Noah, Ryan Shadrick Wilson, Jay Williams, Ben Nemtin and others will all contribute to programming.

Norfolk State University, a leading HBCU based in Norfolk, will be present throughout the forum, contributing on many fronts.

Wide Awake: A Mighty Dream rooted in Modern Realities (Health, Finance and Innovation)

MIGHTY DREAM will be kicking off the week strong with Pharrell co-moderating the first of the forum’s daily level-setting conversations rooted in the realities of being BIPOC in America. These conversations will start each day with the intention to ground the audience in the historical and modern realities the forum seeks to put behind us.

Day 1 begins with a conversation grounded in Health Equity and the relationship between mental and physical health inequities and economic opportunity featuring Columbia University Tenured Professor and Hip Hop Public Health Founder & Board Chair Dr. Olajide Williams and Edelman CEO Lisa Osborne Ross. 

Day 2 begins with a conversation with BNY Mellon CEO of Treasury Services Jennifer Barker about inequities facing founders, creatives and small business owners in the world of entrepreneurship and business finance, and how large financial institutions can adapt offerings and creatively collaborate to address these challenges.

Day 3 starts with a hard hitting-discussion about innovative industries leaving BIPOC talent behind featuring Astronaut Leland Melvin, Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig, Andreessen Horowitz’s Cultural Leadership Fund Partner Megan Holston-Alexander and Sydney Sykes, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. 

On Day 3, Annie Wu, Global Head of I&D, H&M Group, will share a keynote on how inclusion and diversity sparks innovation and drives purpose before she is joined on stage by Pharrell and LVMH North America Head of D&I North America Corey Smith for a deep dive into the most innovative practices across global DEI. 

Pharrell Williams: Musician, Designer, Entrepreneur and Moderator

Pharrell will continue to lead daily conversations with business leaders and other notable thought leaders. Each day is rounded out with thematic discussions across multiple stages and networking moments designed to facilitate additional dialogue and solutions.  

Nationally and Even Globally-Focused, but Always Community-Inspired

While attendees are descending upon MIGHTY DREAM from as far away as India, Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and France, this conversation is uniquely suited for Norfolk, Virginia. Just a few miles from where the first enslaved Africans entered what would become the United States of America, Norfolk became pivotal in the slave trade, the Underground Railroad, Civil War, and Black entrepreneurialism. The state is named for a 400+ year-old business venture—The Virginia Company. It is a region steeped in African American history, business and contributions to progress. The MIGHTY DREAM Forum seeks to continue this legacy of progress.

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Pitch Competitions

Although the conversation is globally relevant, many aspects of the event are designed to inspire and uplift the local community. There will be multiple opportunities for entrepreneurs to showcase their emerging new businesses in front of audiences, including: the Black BRAND Pitch Day, the Black Girl Ventures x Black Ambition Pull Up & Pitch competition, and Black Ambition’s Demo Day. Additionally, 757 Angels will host a Demo Day at the Granby Theater on Thursday evening.

Community-Centered Programming and Entertainment

The Assembly building will not only serve as the hub of the forum, but it will also host a thorough slate of programming designed with—and for the community.

Web3-Meets-Community & Culture at The Granby Theater

The Granby Theater will host free and open-to-the-community conversations featuring Web3 thought-leaders, and investors will lead discussions on how community-minded creators can harness the power of Web3 to create more positive economic outcomes. Music storytelling platform Music.com will be on hand to host and capture the stories of local musicians from the region working to create viable careers in a new landscape of financial opportunity—one very different from artists like Pharrell, Missy Elliott, Pusha T, Timbaland and others who’ve come before them. Always innovative, Norfolk and Hampton Roads artists can lead the next wave of music meets technology.

Business Block Party

The Business Block Party in the NEON District of downtown Norfolk will showcase some of the best of the Norfolk small business community in partnership with Black BRAND and Black Ambition.

Nightly Food and Entertainment

Each day concludes with networking, drinks and dinner for forum attendees—a chance to rub shoulders with business titans and like-minded change agents worldwide.  

Day 1 concludes with dinner, drinks and a performance from breakout artist Saba at the MIGHTY DREAM stage at MacArthur park.  DJ Joe Kay of Soulection will finish the evening following Saba’s performance.

After the Business Block Party on Day 2, MIGHTY DREAM badge holders who RSVP and music performance ticket buyers will make their way to the Attucks Theater for an exciting performance from Grammy-winning artist Thundercat.

At the end of Day 3, Canadian producer and House DJ Kaytranada will take over The NorVa for an unforgettable performance to conclude MIGHTY DREAM. 

Sponsors and Programming Partners

Pharrell and team would like to acknowledge the financial support from sponsors including, H&M, Publicis Groupe, Publicis Health, the Guardian US (media), Tech Equity Collective, a Google Initiative, Sentara Healthcare, McDonald’s, Visit Norfolk, Virginia Tourism Corporation, and Irmarfer Structures. 

In addition, partners including Black Ambition, a non-profit founded by Pharrell that invests capital and resources in high-growth startups founded by Black and Latinx entrepreneurs; Black BRAND, the Black Chamber of Commerce for Virginia’s Hampton Roads and Dan River Regions; and YELLOW, a non-profit working to EVEN THE ODDS for all through education founded by Pharrell; music storytelling platform Music.com; Norfolk-based 757 Angels and Norfolk State University will contribute content and host MIGHTY DREAM events during the forum. The forum organizers also thank The City of Norfolk for their collaboration.

Black Ambition presents eight different moments throughout the three-day forum, across four other  locations throughout the MIGHTY DREAM footprint. Moments include discussions on building startups, supplier diversity, tech employment opportunities for HBCU graduates, a pitch competition, the evolving music landscape and more.

YELLOW. Pharrell’s non-profit YELLOW will also host community programming, specifically focused on educators’ voices, school start, and philanthropy in education. YELLOW will also host a series of intimate conversations with local business professionals open to the public to discuss topics that affect Hampton Roads.

Tickets Remain Available

While limited, tickets are still available at the Corporate, Emerging Entrepreneur and Student levels. Tickets are also available for the NEON District Business Block Party on November 2nd.  

Forum passes enable access to music; organizers will soon release public tickets for the music events.

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