Singer Pharrell Williams may pull his Something in the Water music festival from Virginia Beach, where it was launched in 2019, due to the “toxic energy” in the city and how it handled the police killing of his cousin, Donovan Lynch, in March 2021.
In a letter to Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney on Tuesday, Williams wrote, “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.”
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Lynch was fatally shot by a Virginia Beach police officer on March 26, 2021, and his death was ruled a homicide by Virginia’s chief medical examiner in August. Virginia Beach police claim officers were responding to gunfire at a resort, and Lynch brandished a weapon at them. However, Lynch’s family claim he was legally authorized to carry a weapon and would not have brandished it. There is no body camera footage because the officer involved didn’t activate his camera. There have been no criminal charges filed in the case, and the Virginia State Police launched an independent investigation in March. Lynch’s father has sued the police officer who fatally shot his son.
In a response to Williams, Duhaney asked to meet with the artist and “explore a path forward,” saying that the 2019 festival generated $24 million in economic impact. The 2020 and 2021 festivals were canceled due to the pandemic, but artists like Post Malone, Foo Fighters, Usher and more were slated to perform in 2020.
Read Williams’ full letter below.
I love the city of Virginia Beach. I’ve always loved the city of Virginia Beach and most importantly our people. I’s a part of my beloved 757.
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! 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, 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.
I sang about a room without a roof, but I am tired of kindly and politely being shown the door.
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.
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