Last year, Broccoli City Festival’s growth inspired its move from the Half Street Fairgrounds to Gateway D.C. Pavillion. The result was more success in a venue better aligned with Broccoli City’s mission to educate the urban community about improving quality of life, be it through community involvement or healthier food options. Tomorrow, the festival’s third iteration will take over the same Southeast location.
“The spirit of Broccoli City Festival will always be rooted in the essence and tradition of celebration,” co-founder Brandon McEachern wrote in an email. “What differentiates Broccoli City Festival is that it’s bridging the gap between the environmentally sustainable haves and have-nots, also known as urban communities of color. This is a direct extension of our organization’s purpose and mission.” While that intent might be clear to others who have embraced the “green” lifestyle Broccoli City champions, the message still often soars over the heads of those lost in the music. According to McEachern, what makes the festival transcend music are the “intangibles” it offers attendees.
“Along with the music, you’ll see some incredible artwork produced by renowned artists such Demont Peekaso, Mas Paz, and One Love Massive,” he explained. “You’ll hear dope poetry along with a few inspiring words from community leaders. You can to taste a variety of good foods that are actually good for you. You can participate in live yoga sessions led by some of D.C.’s finest trainers, and you can touch products created by home grown D.C. business owners.”
Understanding that celebrity allure aids Broccoli City’s overall objective, McEachern made a cognizant effort to pick a headliner more in tune with the festival’s spirit. Past acts have included rappers like Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. and Harlem’s brash, entertaining Cam’ron. This year, following artists such as Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$, Kaytranada, Tink, Kali Uchis, Ras Nebyu, and Sunny & Gabe is DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown, better known as Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and activist Erykah Badu.
“I think for any brand to find success and sustain, it’s important to know your intended audience, inside and out—their likes, dislikes, and what they care about. After last year’s festival, we spent a lot of time researching and analyzing to better understand the market, particularly as it relates to music and the message we want to convey,” he revealed. “What we found at the end of the tunnel was that soul music has a rich connection to D.C. From Marvin Gaye to Chuck Brown, Northeast to Southeast, the appreciation that D.C. has for soul music is deeply rooted across generations and cultures. So for us, the decision to pursue one of the most iconic artists of our time was a no-brainer.”
Fans expecting to see Badu backed by a band should temper their expectations, since she’ll be appearing as a DJ. She was a wise addition to the bill—but two others represent the proverbial elephant in the room: Jaden and Willow Smith, the children of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith. Jaden, whose Twitter account often features Confucius-like insight that belie his mere 16 years on the planet, could wind up being a better rapper than his father. Willow, 14, might already have more sass than her mother. When prodded about how Broccoli City secured the Smith progeny, McEachern’s answer was simple: “They dig the vibe.”
McEachern hopes that Broccoli City’s ambitious plan rises above a near-guaranteed media circus. As long as that happens, the third Broccoli City Festival will have been a success. “When it’s all said and done, we want attendees to walk from this experience feeling empowered to make a positive impact within their own lives, as well as the world around them,” he says.