April 20, 2024

The Queens County Citizen

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Pharrell Williams surprised Virginia HBCU graduates with a virtual commencement speech

Pharrell Williams performs during Rihanna's 5th Annual Diamond Ball in New York City on September 12, 2019.

Like many colleges and secondary schools throughout the country, historically black universities in southeast Virginia moved into virtual classrooms because of the coronavirus pandemic. The school is holding an online graduation ceremony for 2020 class on Saturday.

“Even if this isn’t the norm, you all still deserve praise,” Williams said. “You did it, you did it and today is your day.”

Patsy Douglas, a graduate majoring in mass communication, said she felt sad on her graduation day because she could not hold a physical ceremony. But Williams’s message to students awakens his enthusiasm.

“His message inspired me to go ahead and fight for the highest regardless of the circumstances,” Douglas told CNN via text message. “His words and affirmations for the 2020 class will forever carry over in our hearts.”

While Williams did not attend NSU, he said that the school had an impact on his childhood. He is from Virginia Beach, who is in the same area as NSU, and said his brother would always talk about how everyone looked at the NSU marching band.

“I understand why as soon as I see them,” Williams said.

Known as the Spartan Legion, the school band will perform at the William music festival, Something in the water, on Virginia Beach, but the 2020 festival was canceled due to a coronavirus pandemic.

“To be able to come and talk with this extraordinary institution and also to know that the State of Norfolk will be performing at the Something on Water Festival,” Williams said. “It would be like closing my eyes and really seeing my childhood dream become a full circle.”

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