Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water Festival made its triumphant return during the Juneteenth holiday weekend. But, amid the spectacle of musical performances, the producer and philanthropist took some time to pay it forward.
On Friday (June 17), during an NAACP-led and organized panel about the ever-present student debt crisis, Pharrell announced that he would be paying off the debt of five youth leaders. Shocked and bewildered by his surprise, many of the NAACP youth leaders began crying tears of joy as many were “currently financially struggling.” Wisdom Cole, NAACP national director of youth and college, called P’s gift “powerful.”
“Pharrell forever changed their lives. This was a powerful moment. Imagine if President Biden made this a reality for all students. [Unfortunately], student debt continues to disproportionately plague the Black community and crush opportunities for many Black people,” Cole said in a statement to ABC affiliate WJLA-TV.
One of the five NAACP youth leaders, Damarius, further elaborated on P’s gesture and how, before the gift, he had to have multiple streams of income just to attend North Carolina A&T State University, from which he recently graduated.
“I had to work three jobs to survive and everything,” he expressed. “So, to have this, I’m so grateful right now. I appreciate y’all so much.”
The student loan debt crisis has become a hot topic in the nation over the past decade, with more students and activists calling for debt to be canceled. President Joe Biden ran his campaign on many promises, including the idea that a minimum of $10,000 in student debt should be forgiven, a declaration that has yet to be fulfilled. As statistics show, Biden’s promise would surely benefit Black students the most.
According to Education Data Initiative, Black students are more likely to struggle due to the overwhelming pressure of student loan debt. “Black and African American student borrowers are the most likely to struggle financially due to student loan debt, with 29% making monthly payments of $350 or more,” reported research analyst and senior educator Melanie Hanson.
So, while student loans haven’t been forgiven across the nation, Pharrell has taken the matter into his own hands in granting and fulfilling the promise to five leaders of tomorrow.
Watch the NAACP youth leaders’ reaction after hearing Pharrell’s announcement below.
— Jonah Bryson (@JonahLBryson) June 17, 2022