There’s Washington, and then there’s D.C.

In Washington, there’s the White House, lobbyists and those who choose to only walk along the fringes of the city. In D.C., there are longtime residents, junkyard bands, Go-Go music, mumbo sauce and conversations that sometimes begin with “cuz” and often end with “bet.” There were those who traveled around the outskirts of the city, and those who are the pulse of the city. Outside of D.C. few understood the necessity of recognizing what’s been happening in the heart of the nation’s capital.

Growing up, newspapers hit my grandparents’ kitchen table hailing Washington as a pristine political space. Concerts at the Kennedy Center and Constitution Hall were the noted facets of culture making the news. Between these lines were the nuances of D.C.’s culture taking shape, from artists like Shy Glizzy, to the opening of popular retail and bar space Diet Starts Monday.

I went on Amazon and ordered every single book about Go-Go and went down a social media rabbit role looking for cool things to check out in D.C., as if I were a tourist preparing to go to uncharted territory. I was only moving back home to D.C., a city whose youth culture has evolved as much as the ever-changing landscape of the city. While youth from communities of color continue to set trends and define what’s cool in D.C., the press is only beginning to pay attention to its implications.

Broccoli City Festival has become the much needed point of entry for D.C.’s black youth to thrive. The festival, now in its fifth year, spotlighted local artists such as Lightshow, DJs Spicoli & Bombay and Malcolm Xavier, as well as national artists Cardi B, Daniel Caesar, H.E.R, Nipsey Hussle, Rich The Kid, Hood Celebrityy, Grits & Biscuits, Migos and Miguel. Popular DC streetwear brands like, Paradyce and EAT were also present.

The city has often only acknowledged its youth through bureaucratic transactions such as, standing in line for a summer job assignment or playing the lottery to go to a school in another Ward. Washington built a wall, and to enter, a permit was needed for youth to share experiences in spaces that normalized respectability politics and misunderstood those who didn’t fit their process. When entering these spaces, it was unacceptable to bring a sense of cultural identity and pride. However, this doesn’t exist at Broccoli City Festival, a movement where the synergy between politics and art exist. Beyond the turn-up, the festival encourages dialogue around issues faced by communities of color. Leading up to the event, youth and others were tuning into the needs of their communities, through park day cleanups, school beautification and after-school reading service opportunities, as an incentive to earning a ticket to the festival. Toyota sponsored BroccoliCon, a series of panels meant to connect communities of color to environmental needs.

The festival went from shutting down Half St. in Southeast in 2013 with 5,000 people, to moving over the bridge to the Southeast Gateway a year later, and now selling 30,000 tickets and moving to the parking lot of RFK Stadium. Despite the city’s changing demographics, this festival remains an accurate depiction of the heart and pulse of D.C., one that’s vibrantly contributing not just to the city’s culture, but political voice — without picking sides.

Upon my arrival, I was welcomed by a city branded with Broccoli City Festival, and up and down my social media timeline, the festival’s green logo watermarked photos of fly youth turning up and party flyers. I made plans of experiencing the full weekend of events. First up, there was Diggin’ Thru The Crates, an event curated by D.C. native Matthew Talley, featuring DJ Alizay, dedicated to vinyl music. Next up, there was Broccoli City All Night, which took over various warehouses in Union Market, with activations hosted by D.C. party veterans Unkle Scooty of Rock Creek Social  Club and newcomers, The Brownies, a women led book club and consulting agency.

This was non-existent when I left for college in Philadelphia, and after graduating, went straight to New York. Five years later and the city is now branded as up-and-coming with a growing art scene. While gentrification and policing have caused D.C.’s culture to be reshuffled, Broccoli City Festival serves as a podium where D.C. brands, artists, and youth can unite.

These days I find myself trying to play catch-up with both the old and new things popping up in D.C. Now, not just Washington, but all over the United States, people are finally paying attention to the parts of D.C. once tuned out and erased. People now want to travel here and cop some of the city’s cultural cool that the youth are largely responsible for creating.