Pharrell Williams has pulled his Something in the Water music festival from Virginia Beach over how city officials have handled the death of his cousin.
The Happy singer, who grew up in the coastal city, wrote a letter to Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney on Tuesday in which he explained that he also decided to withdraw from the festival, which was launched in 2019, due to the “toxic energy” in the city.
“When we did the festival, it was to ease racial tension, to unify the region, bring about economic development opportunities and broaden the horizons of the local business community. We achieved those things!” he wrote. “I wish the same energy I’ve felt from Virginia Beach leadership upon losing the festival would have been similarly channeled following the loss of my relative’s life.
“I love my city, but for far too long it has been run by and with toxic energy. The toxic energy that changed the narrative several times around the homicide of my cousin, Donovan Lynch… Until the gatekeepers and the powers-that-be consider the citizens and the consumer base, and no longer view the idea of human rights for all as a controversial idea. I don’t have any problems with the city, but I realize the city hasn’t valued my proposed solutions, either.”
In April, Williams called for a federal investigation into the fatal police shooting of Lynch, 25, on 26 March. Virginia Beach police claim Lynch brandished a weapon at officers responding to gunfire at a resort. Virginia State Police launched an investigation in March and no criminal charges have been filed in the case.
According to local TV station WAVY, Williams’ letter was in response to a note from Duhaney sent on 26 September in which he expressed his “immense disappointment” at the decision to pull the festival and asked to meet him in person to discuss the issue.
The inaugural festival featured sets by A$AP Rocky, Beck, Chance the Rapper, and the Foo Fighters, and was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A spokesman for the singer stated that he has not yet announced whether the festival will return in 2022 in a different location.