Pharrell Williams wants to see more wins for Black-owned businesses.

Pharrell Williams presented the keynote speech at the Urban League of Hampton Roads’ (ULHR) annual Martin Luther King, Jr. awards program on Monday (Jan. 17). Here, Williams issued a call-to-action for businesses to pledge a higher commitment to Black entrepreneurs while also noting many businesses have already started their efforts.

“There’s much more work to be done to achieve anything that resembles equality, business — thank God businesses are finally catching on,” Pharrell Williams said. “Corporations know that inclusive businesses are good businesses, right? Collectively big businesses are pouring billions of dollars into programs directed toward people of color — not all businesses, but the smart ones, the ones that will be here in 50 years.”

Pharrell Williams goes on to highlight a few small wins that have arisen for the Black community in recent years. Historically Black Colleges & Universities are receiving historic donations nationwide, and Juneteenth is recognized as a national holiday after four decades. However, Pharrell Williams wants to remind listeners; this is only the beginning of a continuous movement to empower the futures of Black-owned businesses.

“It’s just a tiny, tiny demonstration of progress. Why are these things happening, you might ask? Well, because it’s big business and also it’s good business. Well, also they need us. Why else? Because people finally gain an understanding and an awareness of HBCUs and Juneteenth and their significance. Most people were informed and aware of the importance to us, and so they stepped up. If I can do anything here today, I hope I can drive awareness of something that all of you already know,” Pharrell Williams said.

Williams Wants Businesses To Invest In Urban League

The Virginia Beach native and Grammy award-winning producer also urged the collective group of businesses and philanthropists to shift their focus toward supporting the Urban League of Hampton Roads.

Williams praises their long-time efforts within the community for their involvement in financial wellness, education, employment, health, and most notably housing. 

Now, Pharrell Williams hopes for Hampton Roads’ business owners to turn their attention toward the non-profit organization funneling efforts directly back into their community. Williams believes each contribution will empower the community and consumer base of Hampton Roads.

“Businesses invest marketing dollars in Google and Facebook to reach and build an audience for their Hampton Roads businesses, right? So, why wouldn’t these same businesses invest in the Urban League to empower those audiences as well, right? It’s direct. They’d help make the whole of Hampton roads more educated if they did that. They’d help make the whole area richer because of it. Sounds like the kind of consumer base that any business would actually really want, right? The Urban League can get you there so much quicker,” Williams said.

The live-streamed event can be found on Facebook, which begins at the 43:55 mark.