Pharrell Williams is disappointed with his beloved hometown. So much so that he has decided to cancel the second edition of his Something in the Water Festival, meant to be held as a musical celebration of and financial invigoration to the city of Virginia Beach.
Williams cites the ongoing “toxic energy” of the city’s leadership with his reasoning for pulling out of the event, specifically their lack of adequate response to a violent shooting on the waterfront in March of this year that tragically claimed the life of his cousin Donovan Lynch.
Upon his announcement that he would no longer bring his festival to the city, the city’s manager wrote Williams a letter expressing his disappointment and requesting a meeting with the rapper/producer to rectify any issues. In response, Williams sent the following letter, re-posted publicly via Instagram.
“I’ve always loved the city of Virginia Beach and most importantly our people,” he wrote. “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!”
The festival reportedly brought a total $24.11 million economic boost to the city, according to The Virginian Pilot.
“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,” he explained.
“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, a citizen of Virginia, is the same toxic energy that changed the narrative around the mass murder and senseless loss of life at Building Number 2.”
Williams is referring to a mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal center that took place on May 31, 2019, claiming the lives of 12 people.
“I am tired of kindly and politely being shown the door…I don’t have any problems with the city, but I realize the city hasn’t valued my proposed solutions, either.”
“Pharrell Williams is an icon. We love having him,” said Bobby Dyer, Mayor of Virginia Beach in response. “We’re certainly disappointed as a city and we are more than willing to sit down and meet face-to-face with Pharrell. The manager did send a letter to him…and if we do have issues, let’s talk about them, but frankly, we’re not even sure what Williams is referring to with some of his things. It’s our duty to communicate to each other.”