On Saturday, April 28, Washington D.C. hosted the sixth annual Broccoli City Festival. The festival, which took place on the sprawling lot outside of the historic RFK Stadium in Southeast, was started back in 2013 by the Los Angeles-based Broccoli City Organic Lifestyle group with the mission of drawing attention to Earth Day in urban communities. Over the last six years, the mission statement of the festival has broadened its scope in an attempt to “redefine the cool” by celebrating and encouraging social activism among “urban millennials” in their communities.
This mission statement manifested itself all throughout the festival and the day. The crowd sipped on eco-friendly boxed water, attempting to stay hydrated on a gloriously sunny, seventy-five degree spring day as they passionately rapped along to Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.” Tents operated by sponsors lined the periphery of the venue, including a Planned Parenthood stand which urged attendees to “stand with Black women.” The event’s hosts repeatedly stressed the importance of activism around food and environmental justice while also emphasizing the vitality of consent and cherishing “Black queens.”
All of these well orchestrated factors created an atmosphere that was thick with motivated energy mixed with a defiant celebration of blackness, particularly in Trump’s America, and in the days following the fall of two once definitive and revered figures in the black community, Kanye West and Bill Cosby. The hosts encouraged the chanting of “Wake up, Mr. West” throughout the day, and Nipsey Hussle ended his set with the Trump era anthem “FDT” as the picture of the Chicago rapper in a “Make America Great Again” hat glowed across the stage’s massive screens. On the same note, although it was never addressed directly, the repeated calls for a culture of consent served as implicit reminders of the three guilty verdicts charged against Bill Cosby two days before the festival. The show did not shy away from these unsettled times in the Black community, but rather appeared to work through them, making one message abundantly clear: Blackness is in a constant state of redefinition; therefore, the crowd of predominantly young Black women attending the festival should feel empowered to actively engage in the construction of those definitions, working in pursuit of higher standards both inside and outside of the community.
While Broccoli City Festival stems from a mission of social activism, it’s also all about the music. Similar to previous years, organizers managed to schedule some of hip-hop and RnB’s most prominent artists to perform. During the daytime, the neo-soul sounds of artists like H.E.R and Daniel Caesar filled the air as the still-filtering-in crowd freely sang and swayed along. In between acts, the main stage DJ Malcolm Xavier played old school RnB jams, tacitly suggesting the eventual outbreak of the electric slide among audience members.
As the festival continued, and the sun began to set, the bass was bumped up to bone shaking levels, and the chilled out vibe gave way to the hard-hitting rap of Nipsey Hussle who maintained the political nature of the event and energetically performed songs like “Last Time That I Checked.” After Nipsey Hussle’s set was the well-hyped appearance of Cardi B. Although she was not technically the festival’s headliner, much of the day’s excitement revolved around the knowledge that this would be her last performance before the birth of her baby. Although the rapper did not appear until about half an hour after she was scheduled, truncating the time she spent on stage, Cardi B was able to make up for it with her distinct charm and energy. Despite a technical difficulty close to the end of the night, the rest of the show ran smoothly with Miguel and Migos giving the final performances of this year’s festival.
Broccoli City Festival grows bigger with each passing year, and this year was no exception. Despite a change in venue and the 30,000 strong crowd, the festival managed to maintain its feeling of intimacy and urgency, further proving its place as one DC’s most sought after music festivals. Amid the madness of 2018, the festival created a space for wary concert goers to regroup, reflect, celebrate, sing, and dance, giving them a burst of energy as they prepare to take on whatever comes next.