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Freaknik (/ˈfrknɪk/; originally Freaknic) is an annual spring break festival in Atlanta, Georgia. It is primarily attended by students from historically black colleges and universities.[1] Begun in 1983 as a small picnic in a public park near the Atlanta University Center, it was initially sponsored by the DC Metro Club.[1] To coincide with Reading Day of the center's schools, it is typically held during the third weekend in April. The event increased in size and popularity in the 1990s, incorporating dance contests, concerts, parties, a basketball tournament, rap sessions, a film festival and a job fair.[2] The Atlanta magazine called it Atlanta's most infamous street party.[3] In 1999, actions by the police and elected officials caused celebration of Freaknik to cease. A revamped version of Freaknik returned in 2019, it is set to move forward as a summer three-day event centered around artists performing.[4] 

The name of the event came from joining "freaky" (as in unusual) and "picnic." In the early 1990s, some who were unfamiliar with the event's name pronounced Friknic like "Freaknic," and the altered pronunciation quickly spread.[5]


Freaknik was conceived in March 1982 on Spelman College by club president Schuyla Goodson. It was originally sponsored by the DC Metro Club, which was composed of students from Washington, DC; Maryland and Virginia. The DC Metro Club intended for it to be challenge to the California Club for the largest end-of-the-school-year party. Goodson invented the name Freaknik (then spelled "Freaknic") as a portmanteau of freaky and picnic. First held in John A. White Park in April 1982, it was attended by at most 150 students, featuring a potluck and dancing. Two DJs were present: Nab (from New York state) and Daryl Baptiste Miller, who both were students at Morehouse College.

In 1988, Spelman College President Johnnetta B. Cole banned the DC Metro Club from involvement with Freaknic. Thus, with no chartered student organization presiding over the event, Daryl Baptiste Miller was asked by the DC Metro Club to promote it. In 1992, nightclub owner Ed Rucker recruited Ronn Greene to be the production manager for the first organized gated Freaknik festival held in Atlanta. This event would take place at the then 33-acre Lakewood Fairgrounds and would have 60 thousand people in attendance. In 1993 Ronn Greene and Diya Nabawi would be the first to trademark the name, spelled officially as "Freaknik" (ending with a "k").

In 1993 Kristina Copeland , a woman from Washington, DC and Ronn Greene, would produce the second event held at Lakewood Fairgrounds. Non HBCU people began incorporating nudity and wild partying. Atlanta University Center students promoted Freaknic as a non-provocative event. Traffic became heavier during Freaknik as the event grew. There were reports of violence, looting and sexual assault. .[6][7][8][9][10]

The event became open to the general public, and people from the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Europe came to participate in it. In 1990, it was attended by 300,000, many of whom did not plan to attend Freaknic, compared to the previous year's 80,000. In 1991, up to 350,000 people attended it.

As Freaknik grew, the attitudes toward it of local homeowners and business owners became negative. It was challenged by Atlanta businesses, neighborhood associations, business owners and community leaders. Under pressure, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell cracked down on Freaknik in 1996. Large numbers of Atlanta police made it difficult to party in Freaknik or commit crimes.[6] Roadblocks were placed at freeway exits that led to Atlanta. After city leaders took these measures to curtail Freaknic's accessibility, its popularity faded. The event moved east from Atlanta to Memorial Drive in DeKalb County, Georgia.

The Associated Press reported on May 13, 1998 that the Atlanta Committee for Black College Spring Break should no longer welcome Freaknik. "We cannot support events that bring lewd activities, sexual assaults, violence against women and public safety concerns -- firetrucks not being able to reach victims, and ambulances not being able to reach hospitals in a timely manner," said committee chairman George Hawthorne.

By 1999, the celebration of the festival in DeKalb County died down due to heightened police security. In April 2010, Atlanta officials said: "there are no permitted Freaknic-related events inside the city limits." Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed also said that "he will be tough and even sue organizers of any Freaknic-related activities who violate city guidelines."[11]

After a 20-year hiatus, the last official Freaknik being in 1999, Atlanta-based promotion company After 9 Partners and Carlos Neal contracted Luther Campbell, Juvenile, Trina and others to spearheaded the return of a revamped Freaknik in June 2019. The Summer 2019 Freaknik featured hip-hop and R&B music artists performing at the Cellairis Amphitheatre. Other activities were available throughout Atlanta, such as a community service event. Many of the 20,000+ attendees were adults who participated in the official Freakniks of the 80s and 90s.[12][13][14][15]

In culture[edit]

Williams Street Studios produced a one-hour special spoof titled Freaknik: The Musical based on the popular festival. The show aired on television network Adult Swim on March 7, 2010.[16]

A season one episode of True Life followed college students during 1998's Freaknik. A season six episode of Sister, Sister chronicled Tia and Tamera's trip from Michigan to Atlanta toward Freaknik with their college friends.[17]

In his mixtape "STN MTN / Kauai," Childish Gambino opens by saying that he had a dream that he ran Atlanta, and among other things, he would bring back Freaknik.[18]

On "Hair Day", the eleventh episode of season six of the ABC series Black-ish, Dre reveals to his son Jack that as a younger man he was beaten in a dance-off by a someone who brought his own whistle to the party, which raised the ire of his oldest son, Junior, who insisted Dre had told him "What happens at Freaknik stays at Freaknik."

Freaknik is referenced in many rap songs from the 1990s and early 2000s.[19][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Suggs, Ernie (April 14, 2008). "Street party became its own undoing". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on April 20, 2008. Retrieved April 14, 2008. It was a heck of a run. From 1983 until 1999, Freaknic — the college picnic that morphed into a sprawling street party — tormented, titillated and drove Atlanta to the brink but Chrissy said it came back for a while until 2010.
  2. ^ "Black students converge on Atlanta for Freaknic". CNN. April 18, 1997. Among the other activities planned are a party at a downtown club hosted by Michael Bivins of the hip-hop group "New Edition," a basketball tournament, rap sessions, a film festival and a daylong job fair.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Freaknik 2020 in Atlanta: Where It's At & How To Go". February 16, 2020.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "Should We Freak Out Over Freaknik? – IL Humanities". Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Kirby, Joseph A. (April 18, 1997). "Atlanta Braces Itself For Annual 'Freaknik' Spring Break". Seattle Times Newspaper. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  9. ^ "Atlanta News / Georgia News Section | AJC". Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 4, 2008. Retrieved June 7, 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Reed: Atlanta will not tolerate Freaknic-related trouble". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. April 14, 2010. Archived from the original on April 17, 2010. Retrieved April 15, 2010.
  12. ^ "Freaknik to return after a 20-year absence". WXIA.
  13. ^ Ruggieri, Melissa. "FreakNik promoter explains the return of the Atlanta event". ajc.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "The Freaknik Is Back... Sort Of | Live | Fashion. Music. Lifestyle". January 3, 2010. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  17. ^ "FreakNik" – via
  18. ^ "Childish Gambino - STN MTN (Full Mixtape)" – via
  19. ^
  20. ^