Pharrell Williams has been known for his efforts to celebrate being “human.”
However, he has always known that the world sees him as a Black man. Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., through his “Finding Your Roots” PBS program, helped the “Happy” multi-hyphenate connect even further with his Blackness and all the strength that he can lean on from his past, to make his future even more powerful.
In a clip, Williams is asked by Gates if he ever wondered about the origins of his surname, Williams. And was told that it was derived from a man named William B. Williams.
Pharrell replied, “I knew … it’s not an African name. I knew we got it from somewhere. You know, when you start to fill in the blanks, it just intensifies. It puts a very vivid, intense context behind what it means to be African American.”
“And I thank God I got to hear it … but I’m so sorry that they went through this … It’s a lot man. I have to say I’m forever changed.”
This change is an evolution of what was already there. Pharrell’s work to honor Black contributions are just as profound as his statements in his universal human movement.
He has played a major part in working with the Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to make Juneteenth a permanent paid state holiday.