Pharrell says Virginia Beach is run by 'toxic energy'; SITW organizers confirm Oceanfront music festival will not take place in Virginia Beach in 2022

Pharrell Williams
Posted at 5:45 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 13:50:00-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Something in the Water will not return in 2022.

In a letter to Virginia Beach's City Manager Patrick Duhaney, Pharrell Williams, the festival's creator and a Virginia Beach native, states that the city has been run by "toxic energy" for far too long.

Pharrell's letter was in response to Duhaney's letter that expressed his disappointment of learning that SITW 2022 may not happen.

The city manager's letter asked to meet with Pharrell and festival leaders before making the final decision to cancel SITW.

In response, Pharrell writes how he wishes Virginia Beach leaders had the same energy when his relative, Donovon Lynch, was fatally shot by a Virginia Beach officer on March 26, as they do for losing the festival.

“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 writes.

Pharrell states that the city is run by toxic energy and says the same toxic energy has changed the narrative several times around Lynch's death and the mass shooting at Building 2.

He writes he does not have a problem with the city but believes that Virginia Beach does not value his proposed solutions.

Donna MacMillan-Whitaker, who's part of the team organizing the festival, confirmed to News 3 that the festival is not happening in Virginia Beach in 2022.

"Confirmed. Festival is not happening in Virginia Beach next year. Pharrell loves the people of Virginia Beach and wants positive change and equality for everyone. We are all disappointed, but hopefully, this can be a catalyst for positive change for our City in the future," MacMillan-Whitaker said.

Virginia Beach residents spoke out about the decision at Tuesday night's city council meeting.

"He’s not going to listen to what you’re saying. He’s going to look at your actions," Gary McCollum said. "The actions that you’re taking are not moving us forward."

Virginia Beach City Councilman Aaron Rouse released a statement Wednesday discussing Pharrell's decision, saying that while he can't speak for the star, he believes Virginia Beach has "squandered" its opportunity.

"I can’t and won’t speak for Mr. Williams, and I can’t and won’t speak for the city of Virginia Beach." he wrote. "Speaking for myself, I think the city of Virginia Beach has squandered a wonderful opportunity to impact our city culturally, socially and economically, because of the inability to confront the reality of life in front of us.

"Times are changing. Culture is changing. More people want to be included and embraced in social life. I just don’t understand how our city can consistently say we are “moving forward” and that we “embrace diversity and equity” and that we are “open for business” when so many of our collective decisions prove otherwise. We can and must do better."

News 3 talked with Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer following Tuesday night's city council meeting.

"Pharrell is an icon here, and we love him in Virginia Beach. He has done a lot of tremendous things for our community," Dyer told News 3. "Right now, we're just trying as a city to move forward in the right direction. But, I think at this point, it's just going to be essential that we sit down, one-on-one, and talk to Pharrell."

Dyer also had a direct message to Pharrell.

"Let's talk. Let's come to an agreement," he said. "Let's find a positive bridge and see if we can move forward again."