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summer 2021

Going After The Green

Party Entrepreneur Brandon McEachern Is Bringing People Together to Promote Physical, Financial and Environmental Health
Written by: WayMaker Journal Team

As a student at North Carolina Central University, Brandon McEachern majored in socializing. “I was the party promoter dude,” the 2005 graduate says.
While working on his Communication and Media Studies degree, McEachern discovered he was a natural at building relationships as he planned student events at the historically Black college.

“I kind of went up there and got my confidence; realized that I was OK with the talk game,” he says, recognizing he had a knack for using his “mouth to gather people, to bring folks together.”

The experience served him well after graduation when he co-founded Broccoli City, a multidimensional company targeting urban millennials in pursuit of its vision of “sustainable living, environmental education, economic opportunity, and access to high quality food and shelter.”

The quirky name, a tribute to his hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina, first appeared on an organic clothing line the young entrepreneur developed with his childhood friend and business partner Marcus Allen. The pair split the name in half, with Broccoli representing the Greens and City the boro.

The two men’s business initiatives include the annual Broccoli City Festival, which celebrates Earth Day, community health and economic development.

Bridging a gap
While living in one of the most health-conscious regions in the United States, McEachern made a discouraging observation: Black communities were a food desert when it came to access to healthy foods but a mecca for fast food. It was a potential double whammy for African Americans, who have disproportionate rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and strokes.

About the same time, he first learned about Earth Day, a celebration of sustainability and environmental protection. He saw both discoveries as an opportunity to change his community.

And so the Broccoli City Festival was born. “It was all about bridging the gap between the urban community and the healthy community, right?” McEachern explains. “Like, how do you educate us without being preachy? So music seemed to be the best avenue for that.”

McEachern and Allen hosted a couple of small gatherings in Los Angeles before teaming up with community organizer Darryl Perkins to move the event to Washington, D.C. in 2013. By 2019, the event was drawing some of the biggest names in hip-hop, rap and R&B—along with 75,000 fans. It had also expanded to include a 5K run and fitness gathering, conference, and volunteer opportunities.

The momentum crashed last year, however, thanks to COVID-19. The event had to be canceled: it was due to return in May. “It was horrible for us, but quick pivot. Move fast. Right?” the animated promoter says. “‘Cause that’s what we do.”

Taking a risk
Within weeks the organizers had developed an outdoor respite for families called Park Up D.C., which offered drive-in movies, comedy and other entertainment every weekend from July to December.

“It was just another time for Broccoli City to kind of show that we’re here for the community,” he says. “We know how to pivot and keep our eyes on the prize.”
That ability to make a way is a trademark characteristic of a successful entrepreneur, something McEachern calls razor-sharp vision. It’s the same single-mindedness that originally led him to Los Angeles, where he still lives.

“I saw that lifestyle and I went toward it, which is something that I feel like a lot of young people can learn,” he says. “I think some of us, we see these things, and we want these things and we talk about these things and we pray about these things, but we have not moved one foot toward what it is that we want to do or what it is that we want to obtain out of this life.”

McEachern attributes his visionary spirit to his parents, who supported his aspirations, saying his father gave him “powerful gems without judging me.” He saw his dad “being an example as well, which I think is probably a little bit more than somebody talking you to death.”

Honoring the elders
McEachern also credits Deborah George, his high school speech and debate teacher, who consistently “pumped me up a little bit.”

Culturally, McEachern points to two institutions that helped shape his childhood: the local barbershop and the church. It was in the barbershop where he witnessed the power of Black men and honed generational respect and wisdom for his elders.

“Older Black men, that was something that really intrigued me,” he remembers, later adding, “It’s just noticing all these personalities and noticing how they treated each other within that ecosystem, what things demanded respect and what things just got respect from us.”

As it was observed, it was absorbed: “It was inherent, man, and I just paid attention. It came natural. I think we just kind of learn these things.”

That concept, McEachern notes, was also in play on Sunday mornings: “The church was another area where I saw powerful, powerful men.”

That relational foundation instilled an energy that has propelled McEachern in making his own mark. Learning and listening to those who have traveled the path ahead of you yields that wisdom, he believes.

“It will get you further than going out here and burning your own hands… I saw a lot of brothers burn their own hands,” he says. “It’s one thing to have knowledge and it’s another thing to apply it.”

From an interview with Louis Carr