In an attempt to influence younger people to live healthier, a D.C. festival fused Hip Hop culture with environmental sustainability, exercise, and healthy eating.
Swae Lee, one of the brothers in rising rap star group Rae Sremmurd, during their show at the Broccoli City Festival on May 6. (Photo by Charise Wallace)
The Broccoli City Festival, which ran in the District from April 29-May 6, included a 5k run in Anacostia on April 29, a conference on May 4 and 5, an arts and music popup show on May 5, and a concert on May 6. The conference was listed as sold out as of May 2, according to the Broccoli City Festival’s Facebook page.
On May 6, despite the rain, thousands attended the festival’s final day, at St. Elizabeth’s East Gateway Pavilion in southeast D.C., basking in positive energy, healthy eating, and entertainment from Rae Sremmurd, Solange, AlunaGeorge, Lil Yachty, NAO, Rapsody, and Chaz French.
Even though the performers and vendors were the highlight of the festival, Broccoli City’s primary initiative was to raise awareness about healthy food availability in southeast D.C. “As far as the people, I do see an awareness coming,” founder Brandon McEachern told the AFRO. “I care about the people who came, the ones who got that free broccoli taco at the Whole Foods’ tent. Those type of things keep me elated.”
McEachern, 33, is from Greensboro, N.C., but also referenced the district as his second home since he traveled simultaneously throughout his childhood to visit family in the Northwest area of the city. “From Parasucos (a popular denim brand in the early 2000s) to go-go bands, I’ve been coming to D.C. every summer my whole entire life,” he said.
McEachern noticed a correlation between D.C’s low-socioeconomic communities and Los Angeles’ Crenshaw area, because both lacked access to better quality food and it reflected on residents’ performance levels, as compared to areas like Santa Monica, where people were eating salads and living longer.
“In Crenshaw, you see liquor stores, liquor stores, and McDonalds . . . similar to how it is out here,” he said. “But when you go to Santa Monica there’s salads, people are chipper, they riding bikes, their skin looks different. So, I had to figure out that there was a correlation within the food and how they were treating themselves.”
With help from co-founder Marcus Allen and Darryl Perkins, director of community engagement, they began helping urban communities in southeast D.C. in 2013 to combat gentrification and food deserts.
“I feel like we keep getting let down . . . instead of trying to do something like Broccoli City Festival by giving us an outlet to just have fun and not be angry,” Anthony Bob, 22, told the AFRO. He volunteered at the festival and lives in southeast D.C. “They don’t see what’s happening to people that’s from southeast. Broccoli city is one, but we still have Congress and others in office who have their own agenda.”
The festival has created year-round programs such as Code Green, Urban Farming, and Power of One to discuss health consciousness, environmental sustainability, and economic growth.
Code Green develops workshops to fight health risks among the youth and adults. Urban Farming aims to fight food deserts by practicing growing food. Power of One uses political campaign strategies for millennials to engage in volunteer activities, which is a prominent way to earn a free ticket to the festival.
“Far too often communities of color, low-income families, and other marginalized groups do not have equal access to clean air, water, and land,” Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) told the AFRO. “The United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force will collaboratively craft legislation to discuss environmental justice needs in communities of D.C. and across the country.”
The festival partnered with several organizations, including TIDAL, Beats By Dre, Planned Parenthood, D.C. Kitchen, &Pizza, U.S. Department of Parks and Recreation, Toyota, American Heart Association, and others.
The festival’s next venture will be the “Smile Project,” which will consist of a weekend filled with family-friendly festivities starting on June 1-4 for inner-city youth.