Pharrell Williams surprises Virginia HBCU graduates with a virtual start speech

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

Like many universities and secondary schools across the country, the historically black university of southeastern Virginia has moved to virtual classrooms due to the coronavirus pandemic. The school held an online graduation ceremony for the 2020 class on Saturday.

“Even if that’s not the norm, you guys and girls still deserve all the praise,” Williams said. “You blocked it, you made it and today is your day.”

Patsy Douglas, a graduate student in mass communication, said she felt down for her graduation day because she couldn’t have a physical ceremony. But Williams’ message to the students raised his spirits.

“His message inspired me to move forward and fight for the best, regardless of circumstances,” Douglas told CNN via SMS. “His words and affirmation for the 2020 class will be carried forever in all our hearts.”

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

“I understand why I once saw them,” said Williams.

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

“Being able to come talk to this incredible institution and also know that the state of Norfolk would perform at Something in the Water festival,” said Williams. “It would have been like closing my eyes and really seeing my childhood dreams become a circle.”

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