Posts Tagged ‘Spring Break


Freaknik Pt. 2

Ladies and Gentlemen, in case you missed it earlier this month, Freaknik–in all its cartoonish lewdness– has returned! Thanks to the good (and indulgently twisted) people over at Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, the ultimate Spring Break celebration has landed square in almost every living room with basic cable or household with internet access across the country. Hosted by a handful of hip hop’s most outspoken and outrageous voices, the broadcast, which actually aired early this month, is now available in its entirety on the adult swim website.

I missed the original airing of “Freaknik: The Musical” but  recently watched it online. From a historical standpoint, you’d be better off learning about the origins of the original Black Spring Break by reading my last post. It’s pretty good, if I may say so myself. But from a pure entertainment standpoint, those of you who don’t mind unabashed ignorance, blaxploitation, depictions of Jesus-like figures voiced by incarcerated rappers, and a television event most likely as ludicrous as the Freaknik celebration itself, will find yourselves truly enjoying this one.

Coming in at a full hour, the cartoon is definitely not meant to be taken as a serious investigation into any aspect of black culture–other than the fact that we like to laugh too. However, the attention that  some websites have brought to the broadcast have shed a more political light on the comedy, claiming that the show was misguided and insensitive. The New York Times even took a minute to acknowledge the musical, giving a somewhat objective review of the rowdiness that took place on television screens during the March 4th broadcast.

My own personal review of “Freaknik: The Musical” is short and simple. It could have been a little bit longer to include more of the actual Freaknik celebration, and sometimes the cheap, racially-charged jokes fell a little flat. But a cause for alarm? I say no. Unless that alarm is the signaling for part two of Freaknik in April… I could bear to listen to a few more original T-Pain melodies introducing me to the “party 101” classroom.

Here’s a short promo. The official trailer was a little more explicit than what I wanted to include in this post…. yeah yeah yeah, here you go.


Freaknik Pt. 1

I posted a while back on the origins of one of America’s fondest snapshots of youth– Spring Break. I explored the history of what our country overwhelmingly considers the young adult’s version of the Spring Break experience. However, it is safe to say that just as individual taste varies, certain people will find that the beach-bodied party scene just isn’t their cup of tea. For those individuals, there are alternative options– some involving spending time with family, others involving travel to not-so-hot spots for volunteer work, or others involving nothing but the usual 9-5 grind.

In whatever form or fashion any one person experiences Spring Break, I was reminded recently that as I attempted to summarize the college-aged Spring Break experience, I overlooked an especially unique group that I share much in common with–as well as the influential history of their special Spring Break celebration in American culture.

I’m talking about the tale of the first Black Spring Break, and the story of Atlanta Georgia’s Freaknik.

The story of Freaknik begins in the year 1982, as little more than a small picnic near the Atlanta University Reading Center. The event, which was initially sponsored by the DC Metro Club was designed to provide a day of rest and relaxation near mid-terms for Atlanta University Center students. It also existed as an outlet for students who could not leave the city during Spring Break to relieve their stress by congregating and enjoy themselves.

In the following years, the event gained popularity. Initially, business grew for the city during the early Spring months– especially during the third weekend in April when what came to be known as the official “Freaknik” celebration kicked off. The festivities consisted of dancing, partying, drinking, and general youthful rowdiness. By the early nineties, however, Atlanta had begun to recognize the city-wide party as a potential threat to public safety. Although there were attempts each year to organize some type of controlled event, the sheer amount of under-aged party-goers and reckless public behavior lead to the city law enforcement being called to high alert every April. Traffic alone during the last week of April gridlocked the city and made it almost impossible for emergency vehicles to negotiate the city.

In 1992, the number of young people descending upon the city of Atlanta for Freaknik exceeded 200,000. Independent vendors sold t-shirts and paraphernalia commemorating the event. Community basketball games, private parties, and even a city-sponsored career fair came together in an effort to bring more organization and substance to the weekend of public lewdness. These efforts were defeated when scattered reports of sexual assault arose, accompanied by the open debasing and harassment of women in the street. Plenty of picture and video footage were captured by eager young people who arrived ready to document the sexuality of the scene.

In 1994, the Freaknik celebration reached an attendance of over 400,000 people. The Atlanta Police Department reacted by cracking down on delinquency and drastically increasing their presence. Road blocks were also erected to divert traffic towards the outskirts of the city.  The career fair and other organized activities were either flop or cancelled, and it became evident that visitors to Atlanta during the Freaknik season were in the city for no other reason than to party and have fun. At the same time, community-driven faux titles such as the “Freedom Festival”  and “Black Cultural Celebration” gave way to the underlying freakiness that had become synonymous with the word “Freaknik.”

After the Olympics came to Atlanta in the summer of 1996, city officials decided that Freaknik had to go. The next three years lead to a more and more frustrating experience for anxious partygoers during the month of April. The city of Atlanta began requiring permits and extensive paperwork for promoters attempting to fuel the celebration. The police department also showed in full force that it would not stand for reckless behavior in the city streets. Once again, roadblocks turned traffic into the city more of a hassle than a necessary evil for its youthful visitors. As a result, numbers–especially those of the female population–dwindled. College students opted to travel outside of the city to locations in Florida and Texas where events hosted by popular black Greek organizations thrived.

In 1999, the Freaknik party monster met its demise. Attendance was low and city officials were on high alert. According to some witnesses, the year’s Freaknik was dubbed a “Freak-not.”

Below is video footage of Freaknik in both the late and early nineties. They provide two separate snapshots of Atlanta during the third week of April–one from a spectators point of a view and the other from the street-level experience.

Today’s Black Spring Break is not far removed from its majority counterpart. Celebrations across the country and along the sandy beaches of the world’s most famous hot-spots provide equal opportunity for the liberated lifestyle that so many young people wish to visit during the weeks of early Spring. However, the unique history of Freaknik is one that defines a point in time when Americas Black youth let their freaky side show to a extent that turned Atlanta, Georgia into the one and only place to be during the third week of April, and gave birth to the drunken legend known as a “Freaknik.”

Will the spirit of Freaknik ever be resurrected?


Spring Break

Spring Break 2010 has officially ended for yours truly. It arrived with all the fanfare of blasting car stereos and the booming voices of DJ’s encouraging binge drinking over blaring sound systems and left with all the grace of a sleep-deprived 14-hour drive back the to 757 from Panama City, FL. Over the course of five days, my friends and I experienced the many sights and sounds of what many have come to call the traditional Spring Break. As we drifted along the sun-bleached sands of the Gulf Coast, it became apparent that Panama City is one of the season’s best-kept secrets. Far from the more popular tourist hot spots like Miami or the Tampa Bay area, Panama City offers resort getaways for less-than resort prices. Finding a nice spot right on the oceanfront is not a difficult task either, as there is an abundance of hotels ranging in luxury and price and almost all providing easy access to the gulf.

As far as attractions go, all that young people like myself have to look for is a decently-priced party package offered by the clubs and bars along the strip. During the day, many of these spots operate as bars and restaurants with immediate beach access and offer free shows from local and visiting artists. In the late afternoon and evening, they transform into a sandy, multi-decked night clubs with a little something for everyone.

Here I am featured in this short clip below with my vacation party from back home. The quality isn’t great, but you won’t need hi-definition to see how crystal clear the water is.


The Rites of Spring

Alcoholics call it a “moment of clarity.” It arrives when a drinker has finally hit rock-bottom– often occurring on the heels of some tragic event, such as getting arrested for a DUI, getting punched in the face during a drunken bar fight, or falling, pissy drunk, from a third-story balcony and into the swimming pool below. It is in this moment that the alcoholic gains a painfully sober perspective on life; one that says, “Try not to kill yourself there, buddy!”

I predict that many will experience this feeling in the coming weeks. Hopefully, it will be under less stressful circumstances than those I’ve mentioned. Perhaps it will sneak up on you as you lie on your back in the communal hotel suite bedroom which you and your friends have conveniently acquired near the beaches of Miami. Or maybe it will strike on the last night of debauchery as you stumble out of a night club and subsequently trip out of your shoes and onto the sandy sidewalk. Whenever it speaks to you, I want you to imagine that voice of reason coming from a particularly unique host. Imagine it whispered by the guy that  convinced you to get so inebriated in the first place.

And no, I don’t want you to blame that dude with the visor and the t-shirt with a “clever phrase” across the front, or your peer-pressure-junkie of a friend whose sly grin and pair of over-sized shades she’s been wearing ever since the sun set two hours ago. No, don’t blame them. Blame this guy.

Michelangelo's "Bacchus"

Yeah, this guy. Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and intoxication. After all, it is his spirit that possesses so many young men and women to make the annual migration to the sunny shores of the Florida panhandle in the first place. (And plus– he’s butt naked. You know he must have had something to do with all of this)

Meet the originator of what we’ve modernly come to know as “spring break” in the United States. Historians date the ritual back to ancient times, when Romans celebrated the coming of fertility and awakening during the Spring season, while simultaneously venerating the wine god, Bacchus. Combine these two things, and you’ve got a millennia-long tradition of debauchery.

Origins of a spring festival exist across cultures from all corners of the globe. In the past century, however, what America associates today with the typical spring break experience of young people came into existence during the 1960’s, when college students began flocking to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a week of fun in the sun at the start of spring.

Some years prior, in 1936, Sam Ingram, the swimming coach at Colgate University, brought his team to Fort Lauderdale to swim in the Olympic-sized Casino Pool. Two years later, the city sponsored a swimmer’s forum in the same location, which attracted a handful of competitors. In the following years, the event gained popularity, and tourism rose substantially within the month of March.

From TIME Magazine’s A Brief History of Spring Break:

“By the free-loving ’70s, Fort Lauderdale’s fun and sun had become decidedly raunchier. With gratuitous PDA and ‘balcony-diving’ — negotiating one’s way from balcony to balcony to get to other floors or rooms, a practice typically performed in a drunken stupor and thus madly dangerous — the norm, many communities began questioning why the heck they had invited such unruly houseguests in the first place. By 1985, some 370,000 students were descending on Fort Lauderdale (or fondly, “Fort Liquordale”) annually…”

Today, spring break festivities have spread to places like Cancun, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, among other stateside and international locations. Celebratory requirements include little other than sun, skin, and alcohol. The concept of “spring break” has been exploited by local business who prepare to cater to the young crowds of tourists ready to spend money, alongside media organizations such as MTV and BET which feature spring break specials in an attempt to capture the unruliness on camera and boost ratings. Careers, like that of Joe Francis, creator of the Girls Gone Wild series, have even launched in large part due to the week-long platform for care-free living that is spring break.

This year, although I will be taking my first trip to Panama City, Florida, I intend to avoid Bacchus and his influence as much as possible. At least enough to keep the pictures off of Facebook. For those of you with other Spring Break plans, I wholeheartedly hope that you enjoy whatever it is you choose to do. A spring break is never wasted just because you don’t happen to be.

Stay safe, and ensure that your moment of clarity occurs during the spring break planning phase rather than from beaneath the porcelain throne!


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