BREAKING UPDATE: Pharrell Williams announced his Something in the Water music festival will return in 2022 to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach native and award-winning artist Pharrell Williams is holding the second day of his 3-day Mighty Dream Forum event Wednesday, aiming to bring business leaders together to better address those marginalized in society.

The 3-day series of events in Downtown Norfolk kicked off Tuesday inside a large tent constructed in the green space adjacent to MacArthur Center mall.

The events that require tickets are sold out. There are also some free events and programming that do not require a ticket. View the list of free events at this link.

Early Wednesday morning, Norfolk State University say the 200 NSU students, 21 years old and above, to show their ID at the Neon District Coffer lot will get access to the upcoming business block party later in the day.

10 On Your Side’s Michelle Wolf spoke with local business owners who attended the networking block party that attracted 2,000 people.

“I’m just looking for opportunity. Innovation, the things to come and where we can fit in at,” said Irvinia Gregg who works for the Department of Defense and NIWC Atlantic.

Gregg was joined by Sunshine Swinson of the High Cigar Club and Truth Restaurant and Lounge. Gregg and Swinson are both entrepreneurs from Portsmouth and have taken full advantage of the forum and the lessons that come with it.

“Letting us know that we’re not alone in this journey. There are others that can have the same opportunities and we’re appreciative to Pharrell even coming to this area and thinking about us,” Swinson stated.

She told 10 On Your Side she attended the forum for inspiration and innovative strategies when it comes to both of her Old Towne businesses.

“It’s a great networking opportunity to meet fellow business owners and consumers to get different ideas about food. The food has been amazing. It blows my mind, the healthy options, learning how I can expand my palette at my restaurants as well,” Swinson said.

Entrepreneurs weren’t the only ones networking Wednesday night. High school seniors from Princess Anne High School also attended the event to raise money for their local elementary school, Bettie F. Williams.

“Bettie F. Williams is a Title 1 school and one of the last in Virginia Beach to be desegregated so we find that decades later they’re still facing the lasting impact of that era of inequality,” said student Kenza Zitouni.

Kenza Zitouni and Ure Emejuru are student interns at Bettie F. Williams and asked children in fifth grade to write their “mighty dreams” on slips of paper.

The seniors, who are both in the Virginia Beach City Public School District’s environmental studies program, used the theme “the world is their oyster” to showcase Williams students while raising awareness and money for basic school supplies.

“We wanted to showcase their dreams and let them know that they can dream big,” Zitouni stated.

Pharrell says the event isn’t about him, but about making businesses in the 757 more inclusive. The first session kicked off at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday featuring Teens With a Purpose which is a Norfolk youth empowerment group. This is part of Pharrell’s inspiration for the forum which is to inspire a better Hampton Roads community.

Sessions for the event’s second day will cover racial wealth equity, entrepreneurship and investment and celebrating Black people in technology fields among other topics.

However, Pharrell says he doesn’t want the conversations and networking opportunities to stop after the forum ends. He’s been very vocal about changing the dynamic of how city leaders in Hampton Roads handle situations. Pharrell says he doesn’t like the way the City of Norfolk is handling downtown businesses in regard to shutting down multiple of them, many of which cater to a minority crowd.

“Cause I know what I am, I’m 757. I’m not making a dollar from this. What are you doing? For all these gatekeepers that are here that have the opportunity, to not just spread the wealth, but spread the education and make it equitable for everybody. If you’ve got a problem with what I’m saying, what are you doing, besides hoarding it for yourselves?” Pharrell told 10 On Your Side.

Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.