Broccoli City Festival 2015: When a Music Festival Turns into a Social Movement

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This past weekend I attended the most fulfilling musical experience I have ever experienced: The Broccoli City Festival. It’s an event created by Broccoli City Lifestyle Group, an innovative organization with the main philosophies of healthy and sustainable living practices through the scope of social justice. Their primary target group is inner city communities lacking access to resources and education specifically in physical well being. It took place in Southeast D.C, a community that has experienced major gentrification, blatant police brutality, lack of resources as well as extreme socioeconomic inequality.

The lineup included Erykah Badu and Thundercat, Kaytranada, Joey Bada$$ and many up and coming artists. A fantastic crew, indeed. altSOURCE:Broccoli City Festival

As I walked in, I noticed a sea of people that were each so beatifully unique. Each expressing their indivudality in the form of clothing or hair styles. I also noticed the various artists and vendors that had this same sense of individuality, sharing their work with such passion and conviction. This set the tone of the day where I was expecting good music, culturally diverse art, cool ass food vendors, chill vibes and a general great time. Boy, did I underestimate.

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What I didn’t expect was a day filled with philosophically charged messages aimed at complete and utter solidarity. Amidst the demonstrations occurring nearby in Baltimore that day, there was an underlying theme of extreme empowerment orchestrated throughout the festival. It led the audience to go through an emotional rollercoaster from deep sorrow to overwhelming joy.

A moment I will never forget was during a song portraying the struggle of African Americans throughout history, a chord was hit and all of a sudden, an uncontrollable amount of tears was running down my face. I felt this deep entrenching feeling of sorrow as if I lost a loved one.

But when I opened my eyes, I saw everyone in sight doing the same, and could only hear the whimpers of the crowd over the captivating voice. We all felt conquered with vulnerability, but at the same time, fully embracing it by outwardly expressing our vulnerabilities together. The song transformed into a compelling speech that caused everyone to raise their fist in solidarity. To say I was completely moved just does not do this experience justice.

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To set the stage was an artist I knew very little about coming into the festival but left with a new found love. Kali Uchis is her name, and being an enchanting Goddess is her game.

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She reminded me of a Latin Amy Winehouse: the way she floated across the stage, the way her voice fluctuated so eloquently. She was a fairytale in human form.

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The rainy and cold weather did not stop this Colombian princess from bringing everyone into a dream state through the form of her seductive voice and groovy sounds. Please do your ears a favor and listen to her few songs:

Rush "Times...not...real. Just drifting in space".

Kali - you had me convinced I was in drifing in purple matter.

Know What I Want "Because right when 'bout to turn the knob/It seems it's all locked up and key decomposed".

Bouncin on that beat with you homie.

Sycamore Tree "Whatchu waitin for then".

...those vocals. My soul can barely handle.

On Edge "Fuckin up my intellect/But you know I'm in to it".

I feeeeeel you girl.

When she finished her set, I snapped back into reality and they announced Willow and Jaden Smith will be next. Naturally, my arms crossed in indifference: I mean we are talking about the children that basically received fame because they were born. No matter how great they are, they will carry that initial doubt.

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Again, I was proven wrong. Jaden had some bars and Willow was so talented! These two are an interesting combo. They had a flawless dynamic, so natural and so smooth. Their content was completely focused on social equality.

The most memorable statement for me was Jaden stating “Cuz we all Gods, You’re a God and You’re a God!”. A philosophical statement of empowerment away from the conventional He is God and we pray to Him, but more so, we are all Gods and the master of our own fate.

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What they were speaking is truth. They were real. They were objective and straightforward. And they got the crowd going from passive listening, to bopping along, to by the end, completely taken aback. The end of their performance was followed by “Willow is ONLY 14!” and a collective “damnnnnnn” traveled through the audience.

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I’m not going to focus too much on them because I have a feeling this will not be the only time you hear about these two. Mark my words, my friends: they are stepping into the scene and will soon be great contenders in the genre of hip-hop. For now, take a dive into their music.

Float along with Jaden's flow:
Offering

Wilough sharing her vocals with the world:
Female Energy
Rta

By this point of the festival, the audience has already experienced a wide range of strong emotions. Then we realized Kaytranada, Joey Bada$$ AND Erykah Badu have yet to perform. Overwhelming. Just overwhelming. I literally said “Shit... I don’t know if I handle this anymore”.

But soon enough, Kaytranada came on, brought the grooves and brought them hard. I don’t remember being fully conscious during this, because I wasn’t. The sounds and vibrations flowed into my ears and my brain just translated them directly into body movements.

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I was dancing like that was the only thing I knew how to do. I turned and made eye contact with my friend and we were both thinking “damn, I literally cannot stop dancing”. It was phenomenal. Exactly what we needed after going through such a deep emotional experience. Dancing our troubles away in harmony.

And of course, Joey Bada$$’s performance was nothing less than inspiring. He wasn’t performing, he was speaking to us. Every song was completely customized to communicate a clear and explicit message. He included lines from Kendrick’s new album that elevated the content even more. It felt momentous, as if a movement was brewing. And I was all about it.

There was a point where he said, “We just want you to all be healthy. They tell us we want to eat badly, they tell us we are just unhealthy. Drink water. Who wants some water?” And I said “Shit, I want some water”, and then a water bottle gets thrown into the crowd right directly in front of me. Thanks for the hydration, Joey.

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They started giving away free shoes in the front. They also brought healthy snacks and water bottles to give away to the crowd. They set them up on the side if you wanted to refuel from dancing. It was so giving, so good. It was like we were unified through their generosity.

Erykah Badu and Thundercat’s performance was nothing less than prophetic. They asked us to not record any of the performance and by this time of the festival, we were so present and in the moment, the thought of recording the event did not even occur to us. We all stood there in the pouring rain and freezing cold, together and in unison.

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Badu incorporated so many great artists into her performance. Singing over a part of D’Angelo’s “Another Life” to Kendrick’s “You Ain’t Gotta Lie” to taking it old school with her infamous “Bag Lady” track. She delivered pure joy. It was a perfect encapsulation of the entire day and ended it with words of inspiration and statements that anything is possible.

I would make eye contact with people around me during the duration of the festival, and shared an exchange of commonality with a nod. As if we exchanged thoughts saying “I see you”. It was so beautiful.

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Bcfest was a heartbreaking, beautifully fascinating and extremely inspirational. The sociological content and messages throughout the festival was so clearly communicated through the form of conscious hip hop that drew the crowd together not only sonically but philosophically. I felt as if I was a part of a movement and the start of a revolution.

Check out Broccoli City’s website for more information on their fantastic organization.
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