Pharrell Williams' Something in the Water music festival brought in...

Pharrell Williams' Something in the Water music festival brought in $24 million to Virginia Beach's economy in 2019. Credit: Invision / AP / Mark Von Holden

Virginia Beach leaders want Pharrell Williams to bring his popular Something in the Water festival back next year, but the musician is reluctant, saying a "toxic energy" has run the city for too long and he wishes the city took a more proactive stance after a police officer fatally shot his cousin.

City leaders appealed to the Grammy-winning producer to restore the festival in 2022. In 2019, the festival brought $24 million to the local Hampton Roads economy. But Williams, who lived there as a child, wrote that he held the festival to ease racial tension, and he feels that the city isn't valuing his ideas for promoting "human rights for all."

"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," Williams, 48, wrote in response. "I love my city, but for far too long it has been run by and with toxic energy."

Williams’ 25-year-old cousin, Donovon Lynch, was killed in March during a chaotic night in which 10 people were shot during separate incidents. Lynch’s father filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit in June. In its response, the city said Lynch, who was Black, pointed a gun at the officer who shot him. The officer, identified as Solomon D. Simmons III, who also is Black, "feared for his life and the lives of other officers and citizens in the vicinity," the city said.

"We’re hoping we can have a face-to-face meeting with Pharrell and go over his concerns and see what we can do to get things back on track," Mayor Bobby Dyer said. "By meeting in person and communicating, I am confident we can move in a better direction. That would be best to build those positive bridges."

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