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An old adage often spoken between innocent children and their crusty parents is, “Good things come to those who wait.” Another one is, “Eat your vegetables,” although admittedly it lacks the panache of the first. For the past year-plus, we’ve all had to wait for concerts, hangouts, movies and. Seriously, this list could go on forever. And though the Delta variant of Covid promises to keep us on our toes for the next few months, finally in October we’ll be able to stop waiting and get to our vegetables. Wait, what?
No. You read that right.
On October 2, Broccoli City Festival 2021, one of D.C.’s most celebrated and unique festivals returns to RFK Stadium. The one-day event will feature food trucks, informative lectures and music, including performers such as Lil Baby, Snoh Aalegra, Moneybagg Yo and the Moachella GoGo Truck, to name a few.
“You know, it feels good,” says Jermon Williams, Broccoli City co-founder and communications director. “It feels good to be back to providing the community with a safe space to engage and listen to music, and to get outside and enjoy each other. Those little things, we needed it and we still need it.”
Williams — who founded Broccoli City along with Marcus Allen, Brandon McEachern and Daniel Perkins — says the group struggled over the past year like any other small business dealing with the inability to sell and market their product. The step back allowed the small group to brainstorm new ways to connect with the D.C. community, though, which remains paramount to their mission.
“While we were distraught we couldn’t do the festival last year, we made a choice to adjust and find ways to meet the community where they were,” Williams says.
These kinds of initiatives included converting their normal in-person BroccoliCon into digital panels and workshops, and promoting drive-in movies at the unused RFK Stadium.
“People were scared; we couldn’t touch each other, couldn’t be in each others’ physical space,” he says, lamenting on the very human limitations of the past year. “[The movies] allowed folks to at least get out of the house without endangering one another. For us, it was just about adjusting and focusing on our ‘why,’ and finding out how we could find our ‘why’ in that current climate.”
2020 was a tough year for other reasons, too, such as (but frankly, not limited to) frequent examples of police brutality, constant misinformation spewed by politicians and tension between political parties, which finally culminated in a conservative-led march-turned-riot on Capitol Hill (technically 2021, but you get my point.) Though a festival isn’t a cure-all for society’s ills, Broccoli City has always represented a safe space for Black and brown people to come together and celebrate the intersection of music, art and social impact.
“It’s paramount,” Williams says. “We’re intentional about providing the tools and resources needed to improve communities of color, which are often distressed. At the end of the day, we all know when oppression and injustice impacts one, it impacts all. People also need a break. You want to have that balance of entertainment and social good, so when your break is over, you can rev up the engine and get back in the game, or fight.”
Broccoli City as an events company consistently emphasizes the importance of community engagement in hopes of uplifting everyone. Despite the inability to congregate safely indoors or to provide physical spaces to partake and absorb originally scheduled events, the group still sought to make a difference, limitations be damned.
“We looked for ways to continue to work with vendors, businesses and artists,” Williams says, citing efforts to rotate the businesses providing concessions during their drive-in movies. “We always had our eyes on the ball for this year, we kept in contact with folks. We tried to support people and other initiatives. Even if we weren’t leading an activity, we’d offer support and show up and show out in any way they asked. We just wanted to find ways to support and keep us together.”
In 2021, Williams says some of the philanthropic partnerships and efforts have begun to reemerge, including a food market in Congress Heights near the Saint Elizabeth campus and a recent Juneteenth bike ride.
“We were always more than a festival,” Williams says. “Every activity plays a part in cultivating real relationships to get things done. Now, we’re getting back to that and hearing the voices of the people.”
Though more than a festival, the tentpole event still represents the biggest footprint for the company — a place where Broccoli City can network with community members, educate the masses and provide a platform for creatives and intellectuals.
“All those things you see at Broccoli City provide an outlet to get away and escape and leave inspired,” he says. “We believe that is ultimately what Broccoli City Fest’s purpose is. There are a lot of relationships that are built through the festival. They wouldn’t support us if not for the festival, so it allows us to vertically integrate all these other programs.”
Williams teases several events the week leading up to Broccoli City, but they’re still to be determined officially. Whatever they are, the group’s track record indicates they’ll be informative and intriguing, and at the very least entertaining. Like your parents always said, it’s important to, “Eat your vegetables.”
Tickets for Broccoli City Festival 2021 are available from $99-$225.
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