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WUNC Youth Reporting Institute Production. Youth Reporting mentor Caitlin Leggett hosts weekly instagram lives with the movers and shakers of our community. Her introspective interviews bring the community to the world, and amplify the voices of the marginalized.

Q&A: Broccoli City’s Brandon McEachern on kindness, movement, North Carolina roots

Submitted Image
Greensboro native Brandon McEachern is the founder and CEO of the Broccoli City Festival.

The golden rule is often a phrase along the lines of, “treat others as you would like to be treated.” But for Greensboro native Brandon McEachern, this phrase is a way of life. McEachern is the founder and CEO of the Broccoli City Festival and Think Broccoli, LLC, and has reached those heights by abiding by his own set of golden rules.

Broccoli City is a Black-owned social enterprise that focuses on people and progress. They aim to foster creativity and community growth by building innovative experiences that intersect technology, music, art and social impact. From their music festivals to their community events, they look to advance the lives of the people around them.

Although he is originally from Greensboro, McEachern has roots in Washington, D.C., which taught him, as he says, "the importance of people… and the true meaning of collaboration.”

This lesson is shared by his business partner and longtime friend Marcus Allen. Kind and considerate collaboration ultimately became the catalyst for establishing Broccoli City in Washington, D.C.

McEachern’s North Carolina roots run deep. He graduated from North Carolina Central University, where he just recently gave the commencement speech last December. He recalls kindness getting him through school, saying, “I would be nice to some of my teachers at Central, mostly all of them, and I feel like that's how I passed some of my classes.”

Now, McEachern uses his platform to promote kindness on a large scale. He and the Broccoli City team have raised awareness of community service and has promoted over 60,000 hours of community service with their mobile application We Chip’N.

McEachern has also overseen the development of community projects, which have sought to create socially impactful solutions to alleviate the problem of food deserts in urban communities, and provide access to fresh local produce to build health equity in urban sections of Washington, D.C.

This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Talk to me about some of the traits that N.C. and D.C. both share?

"I think going back to that community aspect, and everybody kind of raising everybody. That's definitely prevalent in D.C. and in North Carolina. I also think just the power in the community as a whole and seeing not only, you know, people that are struggling a little bit, but also seeing Black people who are doing very, very, very well. And I think at one point in time, one of my mantras was like, you know, and this has been said many times, ‘You can't be, what you don't see.' You know what I mean? So, it's been a blessing to be in those areas. And seeing, like I said, Black folks in their suits… and seeing queens on the same time, it's really powerful. It's a lot of power within that DMV area, especially when it comes to the African American culture."

I want you to take me back to the year 2007. Okay, what was the "aha moment” that really started this all what was the moment that Broccoli City came to fruition? When it went from idea to execution?

"I had moved to Los Angeles… And when I was in LA I had learned about the streetwear culture… The streetwear culture was kind of just popping in and I saw all these people kind of taking matters into their own hands… I got a whole community of folks that you know what I'm saying represent this positivity, but also represent, you know, me being outside. And I was like, ‘Man, if they can do it, I can do it.’ Going back to the whole — you can't be what you don't see. So, I saw these cats doing these certain things. And I was like, ‘man, there's no reason why I shouldn't create that. But the aha moment was really just like, ‘Yo, I'm going to do this, I'm going to put something together.’"

 Submission by Brandon McEachern
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Brandon McEachern

From there, Broccoli City Festival in 2013?

"Actually, the first one that we ever did was in 2010. The one that we did then was called ‘Global Coolin’. So, this was during the blog era. It was all these different hip-hop acts. You had the Dom Kennedy's of the world; you had the Kendrick Lamar's... All these different cats coming out of the West Coast, and it was such a vibrant energy, but it was like, I didn't see, personally, anywhere where we all [had a space] to congregate, you know what I mean? It was just kind of all online. Then at the same time, I had learned about Earth Day. You know, I didn't know what Earth Day was until I had got out here to California. I'm like, 'Oh, man! So, this is a holiday that celebrates community the sense of the sustainable lifestyle. Oh, snap.' You know what I mean? Like, it would be dope if somebody would do that in our community. We put together our very first one in 2010. We did it at this warehouse. Downtown on Margo Street, and in Los Angeles and, and it was a whole vibe, and we thought it was going to get 250 people or something like that. But then like 500 people showed up, you know, so I was like, ‘Oh, snap!’ And you know, people still talking about that event to this day.

"Obviously, everybody has grown since then. So then if we fast forward to 2013, we obviously took those years off because it was hard to replicate what we hit did in 2010, because everybody had got signed that next year. All the rappers got signed, and everybody kind of blew up, for lack of a better word, right? And we obviously didn't have the financial means… And then my partner, Marcus Allen, he lived in Washington, D.C., and he was like, ‘Bruh, we all know D.C. You got family here. They're like, yo, let's take this joint to D.C.’ And 2013 was the first one at the bullpen."

From there we also got Think Broccoli. Talk to me a little bit about that.

"In lieu of doing all these festivals and all these events, we would have people reach out, ‘Yo, how y'all do this?' Which is another thing I loved about the whole Broccoli City thing at the beginning because I felt like a lot of people saw myself and they saw Marcus and… I think a lot of people were like, ‘Man, if they can do it, then we can do it.’

"So yet again, people were asking how do we do this? How do we put these things together? And Think Broccoli was our agency, and we were able to do these things for people. There were some older folks reaching out like, ‘Hey, you know, I'm trying to touch the youth’, [and we would say] … ‘I got you Miss lady, we can work on your website,' or you know, just doing all those kinds of mundane things that people do with a snap of a finger now."

What would you like to leave the young people with? I feel like you dropped a lot of gems.

Broccoli City Festival

"I really would just say go after it, man. And I also would say, you know, be practical about it, right? When I say be practical about it, it's like, if you want to have muscles, then you should go to the gym. You know what I mean? Like, be practical about your journey. I think that proximity is very key to sometimes. You just got to show up, you know what I mean? So, you know, I would say to the young folks, man, go to those events, you know, apply for those internships. You know what I mean?

"Especially while you’re young... Somebody had told me once — and I think this is super-duper powerful, and I wish somebody would have told me this as a youth — but I had learned that the blessing is in your feet, and not in your feelings, right? It's about movement. You know what I'm saying, that the blessing is in that movement … Pushing that thing going forward, whatever it is that you're going for, versus sitting in the house and wishing, you know what I mean? So, it's two places where nothing will ever happen, right. So one is, you know, reflecting on the past, nothing ever happens in the past, right? It happened, it's over, leave it alone. And then another place that nothing ever happens is, is the hopeful, being super hopeful, you know what I mean? Like nothing ever happens in that place. Right. And I think that a lot of us, especially those of us who from the south or you know, come from a Black community, you know, I mean, we'd be praying about things, you know, and we'd be wishing. Then if it don't work out the way we thought it was supposed to work out, then we get mad at God, when it's like, ‘Yo, faith without work is dead.’ So it's like, you know, you just don't want to be in those two places. You don't want to be in the past, and you don't want to be hopeful too much in the future. You want to be right there in the present. You know what I mean? And I heard this {quote} ‘You're wanting or your urge to do something is God's proof to you that it's yours already.’... Yo, have you got that itch to do something? Right? It's already yours. You know what I mean? So you just got to follow the steps to go off and get it."

While Broccoli City’s reach has spread far beyond North Carolina, McEachern hopes to keep spreading the messages he has learned in the city to the world.

As he gears up for the 2023 Broccoli City Festival on July 15 and 16, he plans on spreading these same messages for the thousands that will flood the Washington, D.C., streets to enjoy the festival.

Caitlin Leggett was WUNC's News Administrative Intern & Youth Reporting Mentor.
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