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Day 2 of Mighty Dream forum brings block party to NEON District, speakers & panels to Norfolk

Day two of the Mighty Dream Forum brings panels on making dreams possible, talks with experts across different industries and a block party in the NEON District.

NORFOLK, Va. — "Mighty Dream... Loading" started off with spoken word pieces that addressed the plights of people of color. 

Those pieces showcased the founding principles of the United States, and compared the experiences of Black and Brown people to the ideals of the Founding Fathers. 

Pharrell Williams took to the stage a little after 9 a.m. to formally welcome people to the second day of the Norfolk forum.

"For me, the highlight of all this is that while Elephant in the Room is a smaller version of this, this year is proof of concept," he said.

Pharrell was advocating for large companies to reach out to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and help with their graduates' transition from college to the working world.

"Once we are educated as a community, it doesn't stop there," he said. "We need people and programs that will connect the dots between education and the next step."

Pharrell said he wanted this forum to show young people the extent of their potential.

"Mighty Dream, for me, is for 14-year-olds to see what's really there and not be so ready and willing to let it go," he said. "When your eyes are wide open, you're gonna be able to see the system for what it is."

RELATED: Pharrell's Mighty Dream Forum arrives in Norfolk, bringing panels, entertainment with it

Day two of the festival will bring an "Ignite the Mighty" talk about making dreams possible, "Power of Educator Voice" with speakers from HipHopEd, conversations with Mav Carter (sports-marketing) and Lewis Hamilton (Formula One racer), a business pitching contest and many other panels.

The importance of Financial Equity

13News Now reporter Kaicey Baylor attended a panel that addressed the concept of equity with leaders of two investment bank companies. 

Pharrell said creatives and small business owners need more than just an investment from large institutions.

“We need people, we need organizations and programs that will help connect the dots between okay you have the education what is your next step,” he said.

He spoke with Jennifer Barker, the CEO of Treasury Services for BNY Mellon, and Jim Reynolds, the CEO of Loop Capital, who both said they are making a point to mentor students and up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

“We really empower companies and entrepreneurs behind the scenes,” Barker said. 

“78% of our entrepreneurs are coming from underrepresented communities.”

Reynolds said it’s about educating communities and providing opportunities.

 “African Americans sit at almost the bottom of every measure, economic measure that we have,” Reynolds said.

He says opening doors in underrepresented communities can change a person's outlook on life. He said he’s working to bring Wall Street to HBCU students and give them access to opportunities available there. 

Barker said her company is on a minority advisory council to learn how leaders with her company can provide more resources to create equity.

A Focus on Education

One of the opportunities Pharrell Williams is looking to bring to the Mighty Dreams Forum is a focus on education.

On Wednesday, speakers like Dr. Christopher Emdin and Timothy Jones of HipHopEd addressed a crowd of people on the importance of finding your voice in the classroom.

"It's a big piece of teaching and learning, for an educator to be able to understand the power of their voice, how to use their voice, and why it's necessary to be effective in the classroom," said Emdin.

Both Emdin and Jones said a way for teachers to tap into their voices is through music, and specifically hip-hop. Emdin believes focusing on hip-hop adds a level of vulnerability in teachers that allows them to show off their personalities.

"Somewhere, somehow there is a 9th grader right now who loves hip-hop and could never see themselves as an educator," said Emdin. "In fact, you are going to be a better educator if you are rooted in hip-hop and learn the skills of a traditional teacher."

Teachers like Devona King said this is an important message for teachers to carry forward in their schools.

"I'm a first-year teacher and I try to bring as much heart and love into it as I possibly can," said King. "I feel like every teacher needs to hear this, everyone needs to raise their voices and connect."

Both speakers hope that platforms like the Mighty Dream will encourage all educators, even those outside of traditional classrooms, to expand their horizons and push the boundary of what it means to be an "educator."

Pull Up & Pitch!

For a portion of the day, Mighty Dream Forum organizers invited local business owners and budding entrepreneurs to “shoot their shot” at a pop-up tent.

Pull Up & Pitch allowed participants come up and present a business pitch in just 60 seconds!

They showcased their products, inventions, and ideas in front of a three-judge panel. Each judge could endorse ideas by giving a thumbs up.

Depending on how many a contestant gets, that could have gotten them anywhere from $200 to $500 each. Ideas ranged in fields from cosmetics and fashion, to food, mental health, and more.

Top pitches moved onto a final round with big-ticket prizes, including a first-place prize of $20,000.

Business Block Party

All the excitement from the Something in the Water announcement on Wednesday morning carried over onto all the Day 2 events.

Many activities and panels on Wednesday put a spotlight on the NEON District, which is where a Business Block Party took over the streets for a portion of the day.

Thousands of people gathered, and during a walk-through of the event, Pharrell Williams reflected on his “mighty dream.”

“Pharrell, how is Day 2 going so far?,” a 13News Now reporter asked.

"It feels so good, all of these amazing Black and brown genius ideas,” Pharrell responded.

He also reiterated the mission and message of the three-day forum: “That you are untapped potential and that you're going to do and you're going to get it regardless. So, I just want you to know, this feels like such a success."

757 native Tanya Rollins Shadley agreed. 

"Every room you walk into, whether it's an open space or indoor space, you feel the energy of the room, people that are getting money, grants, resources and information. So, I'm soaking it all in,” she said.

Rollins Shadley is a business owner and nonprofit leader. She said she is getting ready to pitch a proposal for an event on Thursday.

And for co-founder of DrinKicks, Kristeen Reynolds, the forum in Norfolk is a chance to build connections.

"We take everything you see in here, from the fruit skins, the label, the bottles and make sustainable shoes,” said Reynolds. "We are actually super excited to say we have been accepted to the 757 startup studios, so we will be coming to the 757 to make an impact."

Day 2 also featured a Joy Equity panel, where local trailblazers spoke about breaking barriers in their sport as Black athletes and leaders.

RELATED: Here's what people are saying about Mighty Dream Forum

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