By Niki Papadogiannakis & Antonio Hernandez
D.C. locals, activists and music fans gathered at the Gateway DC pavilion on Saturday, April 30 for the 4th Annual Broccoli City Fest, a music festival with an environmental and social message. Thousands gathered in the Gateway DC pavilion to see hip-hop artist Future, R&B singer-songwriter Jhene Aiko and breakout singer Anderson .Paak on the main stage. Local food trucks, vendors and activists brought life to the grounds despite uncompressing overcast and bouts of rain that continued through the night.
Originating the festival in Los Angeles, founder Brandon McEachern brought Broccoli City to D.C. to celebrate the multicultural vibrancy of the nation’s capital and spread positive messages of social justice and environmentalism.
“A lot of people from different places come here. It’s not just black, white, it’s Persian, it’s Mexican, it’s such a plethora of wonderful people. So we said, let’s take Broccoli City to Chocolate City. There was an emerging culture here that I took note of,” McEachern told VOA. He was originally inspired to create the festival to encourage a healthy lifestyle after noticing the food desert in South Central L.A.
Broccoli City traverses both the national and local, pairing big-name acts and internationally recognizable sponsors, such as Toyota and Heineken, with local artists and community engagement. D.C-based collective One Love Massive organized a smaller stage that featured some of the area’s most prominent artists including DJ Ayescold, alternative art ensemble Nag Champa, and celebrated go-go band Rare Essence.
“People could go and earn tickets online by signing up to different community events,” McEachern said. “We had cleanups at the YMCA in Southeast—right up the street. We had Anacostia River clean ups. We had #lunchbag where we were giving food away to the homeless, we were working with DC Kitchen. Basically, it was an incentive for people to come out, do work in the community and then they get a ticket right there. Because we understand that people want to give back but they are also a tad bit selfish—and ain’t nobody mad at that, can’t nobody be mad at that.”
Vendors, from New York to Virginia, lined the Gateway DC Pavilion, including community activist groups Black Lives Matter DC, thrift and vintage clothing shops, visual artists and food trucks. Many of the vendors featured a message of social justice and positivity.
D.C. local and vendor Randi Gloss started selling shirts at Broccoli City in 2014 that feature the names of black men and women who are victims of police brutality. McEachern personally helped Gloss get GLOSSRAGS up and running.
“Broccoli City is a mom and pop shop,” McEachern said. “People see me and they see our partners and we are not whimsical creatures we are not like unicorns. I look just like, you know, a dude they dated or their friend from high school.”