This year’s Broccoli City Festival brought what it usually does: music, art, food, fellowship, and rain. But the wind and showers didn’t stop the show, with Broccoli City curating a cultural experience for us, by us.
Broccoli City originated as an organic t-shirt company, but in time expanded to a larger initiative to educative millennials on how to foster an eco-friendly lifestyle in urban communities. The music festival launched in spring of 2013 to draw attention for Earth Day, with the goal of promoting an environmentally sustainable lifestyle through music.
Upon entering the festival grounds attendees were greeted by a line of tents housing organizations like Fresh Empire, which campaigns to promote a tobacco-free life by education youth through Hip Hop-inspired events, and Planned Parenthood, who promoted their #IDEFY campaign and encouraged festival goers to tell the world what they resist-discrimination, slut shaming, intolerance, etc.
Across from the tents sat Market Village, an outdoor market featuring a dynamic array of artisans, educators, designers and makers, all of whom shared Broccoli City’s mission of building a better community. And a community it was for sure.
Here vendors like Ruby Sampson, Jewel Posse, The Loft, No Chaser Beard Oil, AND AND NYC, The Paradise Shop and Asli Pure Natural Body Care sold everything: crystals, incense, shea butter, vintage jerseys, head wraps, facial toner and more. But beyond simply being a place for vendors to sell their products, Market Village was a display of black entrepreneurship and excellence.
And the music excelled too, which should come as no surprise, as Broccoli City Festival has hosted Future, Erykah Badu, BJ the Chicago Kid and GoldLink in previous years.
As one of the first acts of the day, Chicago’s Sir the Baptist brought the gospel. Down on the other side of the festival grounds Jamla Records and Roc Nation rapper Rapsody took the main stage, backed by a live band and none other than 9th Wonder, who spun the sample for Kendrick Lamar’s “Duckworth” before Raps took the stage. Rapsody brought the realness, epitomized everything that is Hip Hip, and praised the strength of the woman, telling the audience: “Ladies, anything a man can do we can too. And probably better.” Raps dropped verses over classic Hip Hop cuts, brought out Heather Victoria, and even pulled a fan onstage to rap to him.
South Carolina’s Nick Grant followed, performing a medley of his tracks before starting “The Fire,” a cut from his 2016 mixtape, ’88. He rapped: “Like living in sadness we are young and we black / Adapting to equipment so no tactics so stop calling me n***a / Cause I take pride in my blackness this is the fire.”
A few minutes later Smino hit the City Sage on crutches, telling the audience that he hurt his foot at a previous show. But that didn’t stop the St. Louis native from delivering an electrifying set, which placed black womanhood at the center of just like his album blkswn. The rapper performed standout tracks from the album including “Blkoscars,” “Netflix & Dusse” and “Anita.”
The day also saw performances from NAO, One Love Massive, Rejjie Snow, 21 Savage, Aluna George, Kevin Abstract, DJ Kool Flash, Chaz French, and Lil Yachty.
As the sun began to set fans flocked to the main stage to watch one of the day’s most anticipated performers: Solange. From the red color scheme to the band’s synchronized choreography, the songstress did more than simply perform. She created an art piece on the stage. Solange ran trough popular songs primarily from her No. 1 album, A Seat at the Table, including “Mad,” “Don’t Touch My Hair,” “Cranes In The Sky” and her favorite song on the album: “Junie.” She even threw it back with “T.O.N.Y” and “Losing You” for her older fans.
But the highlight of her performance came when Solange stepped off of the stage and into the crowd for “F.U.B.U.,” ASATT’s Black empowerment anthem. Solange stood right next to festival goers and harmonized right to their faces: if this isn’t for you, don’t be upset that she created this song and album as a space for herself and her people. If this is for you, bask in it, enjoy it, and do it on your terms. The whole set was a powerful affirmation of Blackness.
Rae Sremmurd was the final performance of the night, with the duo performing hits like “No Flex Zone,” “This Could Be Us,” and “Black Beetles.”
It’s rare to attend a festival where the lesser known acts are just as good as the ones on the main stage, there aren’t any ridiculously long, slow-moving lines, and there is a message behind everything-from the food to the vendors to the music.
Broccoli City Festival is just different. And even though of the most fire fits were destroyed by mud and puddles, no one seemed to care. Black people brought the sunshine, the light, and the joy to Broccoli City Festival in spite of the rain.