Pharrell Williams Speaks On His Cousin Being Fatally Shot By Police: If He Was White He Wouldn’t Have Gotten Shot Multiple Times & Left In The Street
Pharrell Williams recently sat down with Town & Country and spoke on the recent death of his cousin, as well as his own activism.
Pharrell Williams‘ cousin–Donovon Lynch–was gunned down in Virginia Beach earlier this year. He was only 25 years old. Additionally, the tragedy was further amplified by the fact that he was shot to death by a police officer whose body cam was not activated–leaving unanswered questions and speculations of police brutality.
Regarding his cousin’s passing and burial, Pharrell Williams claimed:
“We had to bury him on my birthday. It was bittersweet. The way he died was bitter. Where he is right now is sweet. I wasn’t able to deliver the speech with the fire and intention I wanted because I was just choked with emotion. It’s not just the loss of life. It’s also the cause of the loss of life. And it’s a much larger problem, you know?”
Pharrell Williams went on to speak on the “much heavier gravity” that Black Americans are forced to endure. He claimed:
“As a Black person, when you’re born in this country, you immediately feel a much heavier gravity. The gravity is one that we see in our rules and regulations and laws. We see it in the lack of options. We see it in what we’re fed, what is marketed to us. We see it in broken educational systems.”
He tearfully continued:
“Knowing that if Donovan had been white he wouldn’t have gotten shot multiple times and left in the street for an inhumane amount of time, ’til the next morning, no gun in hand—that’s gravity. The race of the officer doesn’t pertain to the conversation, because if Donovan had been white they would have never shot him like that. So there is gravity. And there, too, is hope that things will change.”
Pharrell Williams then segued to discuss how he attempts to fight against this “gravity,” saying:
“We’re saying to ourselves, ‘Why are we in the position that we’re in?’ Because we don’t necessarily have a voice, because we don’t own enough businesses. It’s time for us to be part of the American pie chart.”
It was this mindset that inspired the star to launch Black Ambition back in December–a non-profit that helps support Black and Latino entrepreneurs. Specifically, the program provides financial support and mentorship for various startup companies. Regarding Pharrell‘s philanthropic efforts, one Black Ambition investor–Virgil Abloh–stated:
“How do you combat systemic racism? Black Ambition is really a monument to experimenting in how to do that. Pharrell’s charisma steers the ship, but it’s also his business acumen—he knows his influence. He’s a passionate speaker, and he constantly reminds you of the bigger picture and what’s possible.… I think those attributes are very, very necessary in the world today. You need a spirit leader.”
On top of Black Ambition, Pharrell also runs an educational nonprofit called Yellow. This program–in consultation with the Harvard Graduate School of Education and NASA–seeks to promote educational engagement and bring in a new wave of approaches to education. Regarding his mission behind Yellow, Pharrell says:
“We need our teachers to be able to reach every kid that they put their eyes on. We need kids to walk away feeling inspired.”
Additionally, Pharrell Williams‘ efforts can be seen in the inspiration behind his Something in the Water music festival. The festival was conceptualized when, back in 2018, the Virginia Beach chief of police approached Pharrell with concerns of violence breaking out during spring break. To fight back against this mentality, Pharrell proposed a music festival to essentially promote positivity and fun, while also combating negative stereotypes. Regarding Something in the Water, Pharrell claimed:
“There was no violence, only love. And that had nothing to do with me. It had to do with the fact that the city had the willingness to stand behind the African-American culture and these HBCU students who were just trying to take a break.”
The festival was canceled for 2020 and 2021 due to COVID but is scheduled to return in 2022.
Pharrell Williams concluded with a statement suggesting his devotion to social change and the betterment of the community:
“Do I know where I’m going? I do not. I know I’m meant to serve.”
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