Community & Government, Wellness

Do Something

In this lesson, Pharrell Williams talks about the potential in all of us to build a truly equal society using empathy to fuel action, and the importance of keeping the conversation around empathy alive.

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Topics include: The Ultimate Goal · Case Study: Something in the Water · Be the Change


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Empathy's greatest potential is equality for all mankind. We've never seen that. We don't know what that looks like. It's never happened, at least the way we carry on in society right now. We have the ability to do it, but we don't do that, these old, white institutions that have never really been good to any minorities. But that's not to say that there are not older white male allies and advocates. There's a lot of them. We just need more. Empathy is the best tool for that. That's where the equality is for me. Will we reach it? I don't know. But can we work on it piece by piece, subject by subject, category by category, industry by industry, sector by sector? Yeah, we could. What has stopped society from progressing and what could absolutely be this amazing untapped potential that is America, we could get to that. Listen, I'm grateful for this country. I love this country based on its progression. There's been a lot of progression. But I really, really love it for its potential. It's untapped. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think everything that we do is a byproduct of, like, the experiences that we've learned, things that we've been through. And so once you empathize and once you've identified what that is and figured out the why, then the very next thing to do is to figure out, like, how can you service that by paying it forward or what's the action? For me, one of those actions I took was in 2019. I helped create a local festival in my hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, called Something in the Water. The North Star for the festival-- you know, the community festival that is Something in the Water is diversity, access, and empathy. I think local's a beautiful thing. So we want to be able to come together out of appreciation. In our region, we have the reputation of being racists and not allowing people of color and minorities to have a good time. Their places of business, you know, nightlife, it often gets shut down. And so they wanted to know how we could fix the situation and would I be willing to come down and talk to the city council about it? And that's when I said to them, you know, maybe what we should do is have a festival. And they thought, well, wouldn't that-- you know, there's 30,000-plus kids there. Wouldn't that bring even more people? And I'm like, yeah, that's the point. And that was one of those instances where I had to get them to empathize. A lot of these kids don't look like you do. Their experiences are not like yours. I also said to them, look, we need to-- this festival needs to be more than a music festival. It needs to be a community festival because it's never going to work if we don't involve the community. So we want to make sure that, like, the money that we raise sponsorshipwise is close to being matched in some of these neighborhoods that really need it because I'm from one of those neighborhoods, Section 8 housing. I didn't spend my...

About the Instructor

For the first time ever on MasterClass, a diverse range of our instructors come together to talk about the power of empathy and how it can transform the way you view the world. Join Pharrell Williams, Robin Arzón, Roxane Gay, Walter Mosley, Robert Reffkin, Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West as they share their experiences with empathy and its importance in their lives and careers. Learn how to exercise, cultivate, and promote empathy to connect with others on a deeper, more human level.

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Pharrell Williams, Robin Arzón, Roxane Gay, Walter Mosley, Robert Reffkin, Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West

Pharrell Williams, Robin Arzón, Roxane Gay, Walter Mosley, Robert Reffkin, Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West teach about leading life with empathy.

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