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 came on 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 show ‘Today’ On Thursday, the “Happy” hitmaker called the festival “a black solution to a systemic problem that ended up being this festival that brought everyone together – black, white, gay, straight, whatever you are. The Washington, DC-based event takes place this weekend of June 16 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 young leaders learned of Williams’ generosity. Johnson also used the event to ask President Biden to relieve all student debt.
“@POTUS it’s your turn now to do the same for all Americans plagued by student debt,” Johnson wrote.
In a press release, Wisdom Cole, national director of youth and colleges for the NAACP, which organized the panel on black student debt, applauded Williams and highlighted how debt specifically affects the black community.
“Pharrell changed their lives forever. Student debt continues to disproportionately plague the black community and crush opportunities for so many black people,” Cole said. “It’s time to close the racial wealth gap, it’s time for President Biden to keep his promise.”
Cole was referring to Biden’s 2020 campaign promise to provide major national student debt relief, which he has faltered on since his election.
“I’m looking at facing debt reduction,” Biden said in April. “I’m not looking at a $50,000 debt reduction. But I am carefully considering 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 cancellation comes a day after he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame as part of songwriting duo The Neptunes, alongside collaborator Chad Hugo.