In an open letter addressed to Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney, the Grammy-winning artist called out the powers-that-be within the city, citing what he called a “toxic energy,” specifically surrounding the police killing of his cousin, Donovon Lynch.
“I love my city, but for far too long it has been run by and with toxic energy,” Pharrell wrote. “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.”
Lynch was shot and killed by a Virginia Beach police officer in March, and no criminal charges have been filed in the case, despite the fact that his death was ruled a homicide by Virginia’s chief medical examiner in August.
“Knowing that if Donovon had been white he wouldn’t have gotten shot multiple times and left in the street for an inhumane amount of time, ’til the next morning, no gun in hand—that’s gravity,” he told Town & Country Magazine in June.
Pharrell’s letter was in response to an initial letter written by Duhaney, in which he voiced his disappointment about hearing that the festival would not return to Virginia Beach in 2022, as first reported by wavy.com. Duhaney’s letter focused on the fiscal impact the festival has had on the city since it began in 2019, while also adding that they “have not lost sight of the intangible, unquantifiable impact the festival has had on the social fabric of our community.”
Pharrell answered by pointing out that the city ignored his “proposed solutions” to the racial inequalities in the area.
“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’ve been similarly channeled following the loss of my relative’s life.”
He added that, “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 that city hasn’t valued my proposed solutions, either.”
It’s still unclear what will happen with Something in the Water, but representatives for Pharrell have said news on the festival’s future is coming soon. You can read Pharrell’s full letter here.