NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The more than three-hour diversity business forum that music superstar Pharrell Williams launched last year on the campus of Norfolk State University, this year will last three days and take place across much of downtown Norfolk.
Tuesday, local organizers of the Mighty Dream Forum, briefed Norfolk City Council on their plans for November 1-3.
Robby Wells, the executive producer for the event, said the event’s overall design is meant “to uplift, elevate not only the content that happens at that particular event but the presence of that event within the community.”
He estimates 900 attendees coming into town for the forum and hundreds more locally to play a part as well.
“Mighty dream forum will never be just a forum, it will never be just a gathering of people getting together. These are vehicles Pharrell envisions,” Wells said.
The forum’s main goal will be just as it was the year prior when it was titled “Elephant in the Room.” Major corporations, big banks, and start-up community groups will talk about “what is working and is not working” in an effort to bring more positive financial outcomes for people of color according to Wells.
It’s a topic Williams is passionate about. The Virginia Beach native has insinuated previously that his hometown doesn’t reach its full potential due to the fear of embracing diversity, inclusivity and equity.
Last year he pulled his “Something in the Water” festival from Virginia Beach, citing a “toxic energy” within the city.
“It is just good business these days to invest and do things in an inclusive way,” Wells said. “Almost all these corporations feel the need to tell Pharrell the good work we are doing in this space. As he hears it, he acknowledges it and says ‘this is great. But you know this company is doing this. This company is doing that and this guy is doing that. You guys should all get together and have a conversation because you can probably learn from each other. If you are willing to, I’m happy to host it and I’d like to host it in Norfolk from where I’m from.”
The forum will have a footprint at 13 locations across downtown Norfolk according to Wells. The majority of activity will occur in a 1,000-person tent to be erected outside MacArthur Center. That is where the majority of the large panels will occur.
While the panels are all ticketed events, Wells mentioned there would be free events as well.
A block party will occur in the Neon District on November 2 beginning at 4 p.m. Tickets for that event run as low as $40 and include complimentary food and beverage from local businesses, “pop-up talent” and exhibitors.
The schedule also calls for yet-to-be-announced “jaw-dropping entertainment” each night.
Wells said this is Pharrell’s contribution to changing Norfolk for the better.
City Manager Chip Filer said a “huge amount of the staff” is working to make the event happen.