The 48-year-old rapper’s cousin Donovon Lynch died after being shot by an officer in Virginia Beach earlier this year. Several people were injured and two were killed during three separate shootings near the Virginia oceanfront on 26 March.
Williams had been set to curate the Something in the Water festival, but has now announced that the festival will not be held in the city in 2022.
In a letter to the city’s manager Patrick Duhaney, Williams expressed his love for the city but said Virginia Beach has been run by “toxic energy” for far too long.
“The toxic energy that changed the narrative several times around the homicide of my cousin, Donovon 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 wrote.
The rapper’s letter came in response to a 29 September note by Duhaney expressing “immense disappointment” about Williams not restoring the music festival in 2022.
The “Happy” singer revealed that he initially brought Something in the Water to Virginia Beach 2019 with a goal 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 channelled following the loss of my relative’s life.”
According to reports, city’s mayor Bobby Dyer also reached out to Williams to “hear first-hand the specific concerns he has”.
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“The invitation remains open. We would welcome the opportunity to talk with him, to hear first-hand the specific concerns he has,” Dyer wrote. “Going forward with Something in the Water was one of the first major decisions I had to make after being elected in 2019. Not everyone thought it was the right thing to do, but I believed it would be good for Virginia Beach, and it was a huge success.”
He added: “We lost momentum last year because of Covid, but it was our intention then, and it remains now, to host the event in 2022. We see it as a catalyst for promoting positivity and that’s why the manager and I still want to talk. We’re hopeful Pharrell will accept.”
The 2019 Something in the Water music festival brought in more than $28 million (£20.6m) and featured top artists like Travis Scott, J Balvin and Missy Elliot in the line-up.
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