After graduating from college, Brandon McEachern had an epiphany while watching HBO’s hit comedy Entourage — there was more to life than the status quo.
For the the Greensboro, N.C., native, the series was eye-opening.
“I realized there was more to life than getting a job, finding a good church home, and getting married,” the 34-year-old entrepreneur tells ESSENCE. “Because being from the South, that’s what they kinda preach to you.”
Soon, McEachern realized he wanted more out of life than Greensboro could offer, so he packed up and moved to Los Angeles where he worked in the production industry, paying dues as an assistant. Things changed again after he attended an advertising conference and spoke out about the lack of diversity in the industry.
“I was just so baffled about all these white men talking about how to message to Black people that I just spoke up,” he recalls. A woman attending the conference was so impressed by McEachern’s insights she offered him a job on the spot.
The serendipitous moment led to a career as an ad man where he worked with brands like Beats by Dre and Samsung before he coming up with the idea to host a music festival that championed healthy living to young Black people.
“I was doing some work for MTV in Santa Monica at the time and everybody seemed so chipper, but I would get my hair cut and go to church in South Central and I would notice that, like every other hood, it had McDonald’s, liquor stores, and fish spots,” he said. “I was looking at the people and the people in South Central seemed kinda down.”
While McEachern acknowledges things like racial discrimination and economic difficulties likely had a profound effect on people’s moods, he still wanted to bring some of the healthy food and lifestyle choices of Santa Monica to South Los Angeles.
“The one thing that all Black people love is music,” he says. It was then that McEachern decided to put together a concert to celebrate Earth Day, complete with healthy juices, food, and dope artists that appealed to Generation Z.
In 2010, McEachern hosted the Global Cooling Block Party, which featured a then-unknown rapper named Kendrick Lamar. “It was a magnificent event, it probably had about 500 people,” he recalls. But he wanted to make the event stand out even more.
“I thought it was cool, and L.A. is dope, but I’m from the east coast,” he says of the decision to move the festival from Los Angeles to its current home in Washington, D.C. “When you think about the backdrop of D.C., you think about us, Black folks.”
In 2013, the party, now called the Broccoli City Festival, moved to Chocolate City where McEachern welcomed larger crowds, opened up more vending opportunities to Black business owners, and showcased emerging artists. He throws the annual event with co-founder Marcus Allen.
“We always take chances on people,” he says, explaining that the festival welcomes entrepreneurs, photographers, and other professionals looking for a break. “I was the first person to book GoldLink and I was the first person to book SZA. This is before they got signed and before they became who they are now. Broccoli City already had an eye on them.”
This year, the festival, which is one of the few Black-owned events of its kind, is moving to an even larger space at RFK Stadium where Cardi B, Migos, Daniel Caesar. Nipsey Hussle, H.E.R., and several others will take the stage. But Broccoli City is more than a show, it’s a movement.
“At the end of the day it’s about education,” McEachern says. “So that’s why we created the conference and B.C. week,” which includes an art walk, 5K run, and #BroccoliCon, “an immersive two-day conference where attendees will learn proven strategies, tactics and hands-on techniques to turn conversations into action.”
While the yearly festival has become a massive undertaking, McEachern hopes to take the show on the road.
“Oakland, Detroit, Atlanta, all the places where we’re prevalent, I would love to create Broccoli Cities around the world.”
Broccoli City Week takes place April 26 – 28.