freaknik

Killer Mike: You got to look at it like you black, you looking at other black people everybody partying. But if you don’t realize like, ‘I’m in the middle of the projects,’ I’m in the middle of Capitol Homes, you not going to realize, ‘I’m in the middle of the projects at 11:30 at night, I’m a little drunk, I’m trying to holler at this girl and get out of here,’ but you’re not making it out of there. This is the City of God right now, a lot of dudes got their heads knocked off. They got their shit took, they got sent home naked if they were lucky enough to make it.

Adina Howard: For us, who actually had the honor of experiencing it—because it was an honor—Freaknik was about freedom. It was about just doing you and not being judged at all. Because at the end of the day, we were all just a big clique. We were all freaky, we were all “nasty.” We were all promiscuous and just getting it. Not to say that’s a good thing, but that definitely helped define our youth. Words honestly can’t even begin to express what Freaknik was unless you were in the thick of it. Freaknik was just the freedom to be, do, and have as we chose. To me, that’s the legacy—no ifs, ands, buts or maybes.

Derrick Boazman: When you call something Freaknik what do you expect for it to be? It wasn’t a picnic. What can we say positive? It shows the power of the black buck. It showed you the power of black networking. Now just think if we would have been able to convert that into “Black Power Weekend”—if 400,000 students showed up for “Social Justice Weekend,” or a “Free Mumia Weekend.” Or to reinstate all aspects of the Voting Rights Act. It showed you the potential but what it also showed you is… We can organize 400,000 people for a party but we can’t organize 400,000 people for Trayvon Martin or something. So it shows you the power of the people, but has to be more power than just the party. My whole fascination with Freaknik is I’m waiting to see that many people show up in Atlanta on something that’s meaningful to lives, to the salvation and liberation of black people.

The Oral History of Freaknik

Freaknik

1994 – Gridlock in Atlanta caused by Freaknik interfered with weddings, work schedules and even a prom. The free-form festival brought the central city to its knees. At its peak in 1994 and 1995, more than 200,000 mostly black college students would flock to Atlanta, causing massive traffic jams as men would literally get out of their cars to taunt, videotape or grope women. But by the time it ended in 1999, politicians and police had made movement in Atlanta so restrictive that for the students, Freaknik was hardly worth it anymore. “I was disappointed by what it became,” said Sharon Toomer, one of the founders of Freaknik. “Its original purpose was to be an annual event to encourage camaraderie between historically black colleges. It was a rare opportunity for black college students to get together." 

During the 1982-1983 school year, Toomer was a freshman at Spelman College and a member of the D.C. Metro Club. Toomer said that as spring break approached the club planned a small picnic on campus for students who could not afford to go home. About 50 people showed up and enjoyed barbecue chicken, Go Go music and Parliament Funkadelic.

"It was very innocent,” Toomer said. “Even the name. Throughout the year, we had this thing about the Freak. There was a dance called "The Freak,” Rick James had a song out called “Super Freak,” and Chic had “Le Freak.” So we named it Freaknik. That was it. It was a sign of the music at the time.“Photo by Johnny Crawford from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution archives and text from a story by Ernie Suggs

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