Jerri Evans, owner of Turning Natural Juice Bar in D.C. and Toyota Green Initiative Coalition member, attends the Broccoli City Music Festival on May 6. (Courtesy of Soul Brother via of Toyota)
Jerri Evans, owner of Turning Natural Juice Bar in D.C. and Toyota Green Initiative Coalition member, attends the Broccoli City Music Festival on May 6. (Courtesy of Soul Brother via of Toyota)

More than a music festival, Broccoli City shines a spotlight on some of the most innovative young black entrepreneurs in the country working to educate their community on sustainable living.

Leading up to the annual concert that takes over Southeast in early May, sponsor and supporter Toyota Green Initiative (TGI) showcased four healthy and green living lifestyle experts looking to make the millennial generation and culture creators alike the new face of sustainability.

“It’s always about education on sustainable living,” said Mia Phillips, Toyota’s national manager of brand, multicultural and crossline marketing strategy. “You saw from our coalition members we have a millennial twist on it because it’s super important to get young people educated about it so they can educate future generations.

“Without that the environment is going to be in serious trouble and the people are going to be in serious trouble in terms of health,” she said.

Phillips said when the Toyota Green Initiative began, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were the primary target to engage the African-American community on sustainability.

“It was our way in, if you will,” she said. “At first, it started off where it was just about HBCUs, but now the pillar is the overall African-American community and there are many ways we can engage outside of HBCUs.

“HBCUs have great reputations inside their communities, but now we feel like we can do that in other ways and now we are expanding our outreach as you see with the Broccoli City Music Festival,” she said.

Phillips said the goal of TGI is to ensure that every African-American has heard something about how to sustain their living, and the best way to do that is use influencers, writers and healthy living experts in their community.

Robert “Rob Veggies” Horton, founder of Trap Garden in Nashville, Tennessee; Yoli Ouiya of Yoli’s Green Living; Mali Hunter, partner at Tree Sound Studios; Stic, wellness and community activist; and local business owner Jerri Evans of Turning Natural Juice Bar make up this year’s dynamic TGI coalition members.

After Evans’ mother succumbed to cancer a few years ago, she left her job as an aeronautical engineer and returned home to D.C.

“I’m from this little exotic island called southeast D.C.,” she said. “In 2001, Southeast was a food desert; in 2017, it’s still a food desert. I decided I wanted to do something that meant something and continue my mother’s legacy so I opened a juice bar.

“I was very strategic about placing them in food deserts, especially in Southeast, not just because we don’t have access, but because we deserve things that are healthy and we deserve the option to choose,” she said.

Evans said she has people from all over the “‘hood” come and get wheat grass shots and that makes her feel good.

“We are changing the conversation,” she said. “We are not censoring what health looks like. We are not saying health is only reserved for this group of people.”

TGI, developed by Toyota in 2008, aims to be a catalyst for promoting sustainability across the country with a focus on engaging African-Americans.

Alva Mason, director of African-American business strategy at Toyota, touted the partnership as a “natural fit,” with Broccoli City giving TGI a creative opportunity to commemorate Earth Day and reach a broader audience of young influencers and sustainability advocates.

“The goal is to get the word further, and it gets further when people outside of a big company are talking about it,” Phillips said.

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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