The Change:

Killer Mike: I would say the last big hoorah year for Freaknik was 1996—the same year as the Olympics. I pretty much knew they were going to kill it after that... And the Olympics were of course the media darling of all of America and Atlanta, so we pretty much knew it was going to be over after that.

Derrick Boazman: I think that you can see that it began to change. It began to evolve. Where the actual name itself derived, I’m not clear about that. But you can see the event evolved into more of a rolling party. They did not have an aim or objective because what really started off as a picnic morphed into this whole kind of culture—music, girls, guys trying to impress. So, you know, it would evolve from this small gathering into this kind of gigantic political issue for the city.

Adina Howard: As the news got around it got bigger and bigger and bigger, I think a different type of crowd and a different vibe started to take place. It wasn’t as fun. It started getting too big, and I think the people that were flocking to Atlanta, it started getting sinister.

 

It started getting too big, and it started getting sinister.
—Adina Howard

 

Nika Watkins: At first it was chill. Guys would ask where you're from, what school you went to, etc. It meant a fun weekend partying in Atlanta. It eventually changed to a sex fest. It was the weekend guys knew they could get laid. Walking thru Lenox Square might cause you to get violated—your ass smacked or a boob grabbed. I don't want to say all dudes were like that, but there were some overly aggressive hounds lurking around down there. I heard stories about women being raped which is really upsetting to hear about. That's really sad to me that things went that far.

Killer Mike: It was concerns for the city about young girls being out there in the fray of it all. But I can remember right by Capitol Homes projects, which is right by the state capitol, dudes just got caught slippin’, and they got their heads knocked off. Girls started inviting dudes down to the projects and knockin’ their heads off. And when it got to be like that, Atlanta was just like, ‘it’s going to be no more,’ and they shut it down.

Derrick BoazmanI think Geraldo Rivera did a show and talked about the rapes and the women who ended up seeking medical attention. One year I had to literally save a young girl. She had been cornered. As a lover of our people, it just made you angry because what you saw not college students necessarily, but you saw this kind of mob mentality [as if they] didn’t have to respect any woman. And I got angry; I’ll be honest with you. I got very angry when I saw a girl being hunted up down by the school board building, which is two blocks from City Hall. I had to literally tell them, “No, you’re not going to do that.” The girl was cowering down and I told her, “Sister get in your car…wherever you're from.” She was not from here. “Go home! Don’t go to your hotel. Go home.” And so, clearly it was a public safety nightmare.

Alex Tehrani: We saw some stuff I wasn’t totally able to shake. Dudes that are just full of just testosterone and excitement, and and no one’s around. And all of a sudden three super-fly girls come down the road in their little outfits, we saw all kinds of stuff that seemed cool until the moment that it wasn’t cool anymore. Then all of a sudden the girls would get surrounded, and you would hear little struggles going on, and it was kind of hard to get too close to that. There were definitely a few situations where I feel like women were very seriously taken advantage of. Part of the way Freaknik was set up at the time, that was a part of the deal. I’m not saying ladies couldn’t go without being taken advantage of. But it was kind of like, I look good, you look good, it’s sunny, there’s music in the streets. Let's shut down the streets and go dancing on top of rooftops of cars and stuff. There were moments when that were nothing but pure fun, and others moments where it went too far. We definitely saw stuff that went too far—just a wild energy.

Panama Jackson: What it turned into, was, “I’m from the hood in Detroit, let’s go to Freaknik and act a fool, let’s go to the strip club. Let’s figure it out when we get there.” Once everyone found out about Freaknik, it turned into the one that we all think of. The one that involves all the police, and all the debauchery, and all the clubs, all the rapes, all the violence and people being arrested. It turned into all that. There’s only so much chaos that people can live with before it completely goes into anarchy. And we reached anarchy with Freaknik.

 

There’s only so much chaos that people can live with before it completely goes into anarchy. And we reached anarchy with Freaknik.—Panama Jackson

 

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.

Derrick Boazman: I’ll never forget from the opening of Freaknik, this man had drove all they way from Tennessee, by that time big rims and Capri’s was the thing of the day. He pulls into the BP gas station on the corner of Memorial Drive and Hill Street. Shot right there before he gets out his car, killed, and he was down here for Freaknik. We found out he was 42 years old. So, he got car jacked for his car! Down here to trying to fill up in his custom Capri and he’s 42 years old! How do you explain that? With a family and children. But, he’s down here for Freaknik.

Killer Mike: I remember we use to stop at gas stations and I would tell dudes, “Y’all don’t need to be at this gas station,” cause their cars were too nice to be at the gas station at that time of night. If they didn’t know anybody you knew they were going to get got. I remember driving by, seeing dudes, you could tell that they just got robbed. You lookin’ at the panic in their eyes. And then I knew a lot of the girls that were just down with that sell-a-nigga-off shit. So I already knew they were on the hunt. But that was darkest to me, nobody wants to have a gun put in their face and stash out their shit, there was a lot of that. A lot of new rims popped up in Adamsville.

Panama Jackson: I got to Morehouse in ’97, really the last year when it was Freaknik, before they tried to turn it into whatever it became. In college, me and all my boys went to be a part of it. I remember seeing people in the streets, women getting on top of the hoods of cars and poppin’ it. Dudes with video cameras everywhere, paying women to shake what their mama gave them. Paying women to take clothes off. Basically devolving into, the stereotypical over-sexualized image of black people—there was a lot of that. The years when it kind of hit the national consciousness, women were getting raped, it was like lawlessness. A free-for-all at some point. Because everybody was stuck in traffic, everybody blasted their radio. Some women get out and start poppin’ it, women looking for attention, guys were willing to give them attention, everybody filming everything. And people were coming to act a fool, people were coming to express themselves in some of the most negative ways possible. So you got a lot of the negativity involved.

Derrick Boazman: It was not a college party. People had come to be a part of Freaknik who were not students... I think by 1998, it needed to be gone. And I don’t miss it to be honest with you.

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