Five HBCU students and recent graduates are surely feeling happy after Grammy-winning producer Pharrell Williams surprised them by paying off their student loans.
The moment took place Friday during an NAACP panel on the student debt crisis among Black students, as part of Williams’ Something in the Water festival.
Speaking on the “Today” show Thursday, the “Happy” hitmaker characterized the festival as a “Black solution to a systemic problem that ended up being this festival that allowed everybody to come together — Black, white, gay, straight, whatever it is that you are. The Washington, D.C.-based event takes place this Juneteenth weekend and will include performances from SZA, Anderson .Paak, Justin Timberlake and J Balvin, among others.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson tweeted photos of the moment the five NAACP youth leaders learned of Williams’ generosity. Johnson also used the event to call on President Biden to relieve all student debt.
“@POTUS, it’s your turn now to do the same for all Americans plagued by student debt,” wrote Johnson.
In a press release, Wisdom Cole, the NAACP’s national director of youth and college, who organized the Black student debt panel, applauded Williams and pointed out how debt specifically affects the Black community.
“Pharrell forever changed their lives. Student debt continues to disproportionately plague the Black community and crush opportunities for so many Black people,” Cole said. “It is time to reduce the racial wealth gap, it is time for President Biden to fulfill his promise.”
Cole was referring to Biden’s 2020 campaign promise to broadly alleviate the national student debt, which he has wavered on since his election.
“I am considering dealing with some debt reduction,” Biden said in April. “I am not considering $50,000 debt reduction. But I’m in the process of taking a hard look at whether or not there will be additional debt forgiveness.”
More than 43 million Americans collectively have $1.6 trillion in federal student loan obligations.
Williams’ surprise debt forgiveness comes a day after he was introduced into the Songwriters Hall of Fame as part of songwriting duo the Neptunes, alongside collaborator Chad Hugo.