There's nothing like vibing out during the summer at a dope music festival with your people. DC's long-running Broccoli City Festival has bottled up this energy and executed memorable performances and moments for a decade. Since 2013, this Black-owned event has rallied the community of Washington, DC together in the spirit of enjoying good music and safe camaraderie.
As we gear up for the 2023 installment—going down July 15 and 16, 2023—Broccoli City's founder Brandon McEachern chatted with EBONY about his love of community and his excitement for the continued expansion of the festival.
EBONY: How did Broccoli City come to be?
Brandon McEachern: Let me take you back. I'm from Greensboro, North Carolina and have always been a people person. I went to North Carolina Central University and was always yearning to build spaces for us. I moved to California after college, and I ended up kind of seeing these spaces where we weren't able to actually kind of be safe and let our hair down—especially with hip hop being such a big commodity. Later, I co-started a t-shirt line called Broccoli City that featured positive wording. The name itself had people asking about connections to weed. Additionally, we came up with a shirt called Organic+Fly which represented the conversation that you and I are having right now. Out of the popularity of the shirt came the space for affirmation and safety. We were doing parties and things of that nature with the t-shirts and wanted to do a greater celebration that meant something important.
Also during this time, I learned about Earth Day and how it celebrates community and people in general. I never saw Black folks do that. So, we hosted our first correlated event in 2010 and called it Global Cooling with amazing healthy vendors and local performances with a powerful message. We had everybody from Dom Kennedy to Kendrick Lamar— iconic acts representing the West Coast— who performed for 700 people. We initially only expected 250 folks to turn out.
Fast-forward that next year, all those artists got signed and just kind of blew up. At the time, At the time, my partners, Marcus Allen, Darryl Perkins and Jermon Williams were living in Washington, DC and I fell in love with the city once I visited. If you've ever been to the district, you know how it feels to be wrapped up in the energy there. After some thought, we knew it felt right to bring this thing to DC. That's how Broccoli City Festival was born.
Broccoli City is more of a movement happening in the D.C. area. Why is it important to have the resources to activate cities with communities of color and have initiatives that they can be proud in?
No matter what part of the Black community you come from, there are folks simply striving to rightfully benefit from the ecosystem we've created. Since we've started, I've enjoyed folks coming up to me and saying Broccoli City was the first festival they went to. Broccoli City has been able to create from consistency and access. The resources we've been able to obtain bring attention to the event and the relation entities we partner with. There is enough to go around and make us all better. I would love to make the festival a little cheaper and more accessible, however, we need to pour back into the community.
We don't just want to be the best Black-owned festival but the best period, and we intend to pay it forward through fostering entrepreneurship and wellness as well.
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How has community been centered at the core of this work?
We started this program called "Power of One" where folks volunteer in a community within DC to earn a ticket to go to the festival. When you've got no bread or have a young child, you can't spend an excess amount on a festival ticket. So, one thing we ask is for people to donate their time and still get to experience this event. It's been such a phenomenal program, and we've garnered over 100,000 hours of volunteering in the community. People should be rewarded for doing philanthropy and caring about their community. Some people need to be incentivized to pay attention to the community for 35 minutes, and this is a great way to charge them to do so.
How does Broccoli City Festival keep in tune with what's hot in music and culture each year?
We book talent pretty far back in advance. We prioritize artists that are relevant and still cooking, while also having the foresight to know who's going to pop. We're just always striving to innovate the best festival experience for folks.