WASHINGTON — Mayor Muriel Bowser and musician Pharrell Williams have a graduation gift up their sleeves for this year's high school seniors. In a Twitter video Friday, the rapper announced that all 2022 D.C. graduates would receive one free ticket to his "Something in the Water" music festival being held on the National Mall over Juneteenth weekend, June 17-19.
"Congrats to this year's D.C. high school graduates on all that you guys have accomplished," Williams said in a tweeted video. "You've truly inspired all of us through your resiliency and your ability to learn through a pandemic. You deserve to be celebrated, and so we're gonna."
Williams directed all 2022 high school graduates to "talk to their school leaders" for details on how to get their free ticket.
"The school year is coming to a close, and we want every DC graduate to know just how proud we are of their accomplishments," Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted. "That’s why all 2022 DC Public Schools & charter school graduates will receive a free ticket to Pharrell's Something in the Water Festival!"
Williams said the weekend chosen is no coincidence but instead is meant to highlight the efforts that led to Virginia recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday in 2020 and "recognize that something that has been flowing through the country’s soil for over 400 years."
"D.C. has always been a deep inspiration to me as a person and a musician," Williams wrote in a statement when the festival was announced. "It is the land where Go-Go Music was birthed which has provided so much for our people."
Some D.C. residents expressed concern over the accessibility of the festival, given the ticket prices started at $299 plus taxes and fees, which adds up to around $350 for Tier 1 passes. Across the five tiers, tickets can be up to $549.50 including fees, according to the SITW website.
"Black people in D.C., especially D.C. natives, cannot afford $350 to go stand on a Mall that our ancestors that were enslaved built," said Nee Nee Taylor of Harriet's Wildest Dreams, a Black-led abolitionist group.
The festival has formerly been held in Virginia Beach where Williams grew up, and 2019 ticket prices were about $150. WUSA9 reached out to event sponsor Events DC and festival organizers about the price difference but never received a reply. Discounts on ticket prices were offered to D.C. and Virginia residents who purchased on certain dates, and a loyalty discount was offered for previous attendees of the Something In The Water festival.
According to reporting from the Associated Press, Williams wanted to move the festival out of Virginia Beach due to how the city handled the investigation into the shooting death of his cousin by a police officer.
"In life we hit challenges and when we hit challenges you can either stop and stay stagnant or you rise above it and go onwards and upwards," Williams said. "That's what we chose to do ... and we chose to take our festival to the highest grounds, in my opinion, in this entire nation: our National Mall."
The festival will have multiple stages on Independence Avenue and side streets and will include performances by more than 60 musicians such as Calvin Harris, Pusha T, Chloe x Halle, Dave Matthews Band, Ashanti & Ja Rule, Lil Baby and D.C.'s own go-go bands, Rare Essence and the Backyard Band.
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