In honor of that brief yet time-honored tradition known as Freaknik, April is officially O.S.A.M. Freakin’ “A” Month. What would April be without a really good ‘nic and ‘nik (pronounced neek) and an even better freak (or 2 or 3) in Atlanta? Daytona Beach eternally has “Where The Boys Are” wailed by Connie Francis; we got “This Is How We Do It!” by “A”Transplant Montell Jordan.
A quasi-militant friend banned me from using the word picnic eons ago. I’m sure we’ve all gotten the chain emails regarding its supposed etymology. Waaaaayyyyy back in the day in The A, lynch mobs would pic(k) a N(asir Jones word) to strang up, and then bring a ten piece and a gingham sheet for the fam to sit on and watch this freakout. That is now why we Educated Black Folk (EBF) in The A have cookouts. Has nothing to do with that 8 million dollar grill at ya bwoy’s house up in GuilforFar-rest subdivision or the tin drum perpetually parked at the I-20 Snapfinger exit on which folk will cook out in the middle of “A” Snow Jam. But Freaknik started as a ‘nic back in the day in The A when Milifriend was still collecting La Tigre shirts, not revolutionary trivia. Back then, he ‘nik and ‘nic-eded his “A” off.
Freaknik itself isn’t actually an Atlanta thing. It was started in the 80’s by some Atlanta University Center (AUC) EBF’s from the Washington, D.C. Metro area as their last little school year blowout before finals and farewells. Now, let’s all think about this. Picture a Sasha Obama type from Spelman College going to a cookout with her boyfriend and sorors. Some hibachis, a boombox, B&J wine coolers (yuk!), a couple of nice cars and bermuda shorts were all that was in the offing. A hundred people at best might show up. That WAS the first Freaknik.
I remember being in my dorm (elsewhere) and getting a purply mimeographed flyer announcing the ‘8tee-nunna-yo-business event at John A. White Park, located deep in the heart of the intown SWATS. I didn’t go because I didn’t know the folk and questioned whether or not we’d know anybody from The A up in there. That lasted one year. My how things quickly changed when dealing with (pic/freak)Nic’ers.
You wanna hear something real funny? Ask a 30up “A”Townie how to pronounce this event.
**Sidebar – Remember in School Daze when the world was first introduced to Samuel L. Jackson? He was the guy cursing out the college students for infringing on his neighborhood and territory and hoped they would burn in EBF hey-yell. He was playing an “A”Townie…
Funny part about it, in real life, the Morehouse grad was probably one of them college Fellas he was hey-yell’in up. See how art……..And now back to our show.**
You’ll probably get something a little more approximate to yeek! from “A”Townies. Freetnik! Got it? Nik (pronounced neek). Rhymes with yeek!. Then ask them what yeek! means and get out of the way as you might get punched when they double up on the two step, bring it back, and start flappin’ them alternating flat palms, taking it behind the back, pumping them arms and fists in the air all while doing the side to side. Watch any ATL two-steppin’ video and holla Yeek! whenever the hip pops. Fits e’erytime.
Right around the time that MC Shy D began flipping cartoon theme songs on 12’ platters like pancakes, Freaknik started turning into the Attack of the 50-11 Folk Folk. Washington Park? We won’t go there, although many natives told me that was their favorite one when I mentioned I was writing this column. Blackburn Park out in our DC (Dekalb County) didn’t know folk were even coming their way, poor thangs. You remember that scene in “I Am Legend” where the streets get clogged with zombies, just a slappin’ up against car windows and whatnot? Welcome to Atlanta at its ‘nikiest (I said ‘nikiest, not Nickiest). After a while, they just started closing down expressway exits. Unless it’s a matter of national security, have you ever heard of an American city stationing barricades and police at multiple interchanges so no one can get in? Not out, like an evacuation, but in? You have now. Close Encounters of the “A” Kind. Yeek!
A many years after we all forgot mimeograph machines ever existed, I watched out of the window with my co-workers at the full-out bacchanal that The Little Cookout That Would had become. The kicker? Being located in such a primetime traffic spot (the corner of Auburn & Courtland) folk just decided to pawk, gawk and **expletive deleted** at da liberry. My favorite was the trailer ’bout big as a tour bus that pulled into our loading dock chillin’ like we were a KOA campground. How ’bout that for your Fulton County tax dollars at work?
At that point, Freaknik, to me, became such an unbelievable part of ‘Lanta histree that it had to die. I mean, my lawd, Tia, Tamera and Tootie’s lil sister ended up in the mix on a primetime sitcom episode. **I’m saying in my Neffie voice** Are you serious? But I hear, just like Jason and that Friday the 13th thang I talked about a few months ago (and rap music according to M.C. Shy D), some things will never die. Stay tuned.
Here’s the link to a Freaknic/nik resurrection website. This is not an endorsement by SFTA or myself, just an observation, so don’t call us if you choose Visa for a road trip and the only thing going on when you get here is that $10.00, old-school Reflections jam sponsored by The(m) Natives on North Ave. our staff is hittin’ up and a boot on your used Hummer with the dealer plates that will be “sent back” to said dealer next month. See, we seasoned natives still have some fun ’round these parts reflecting on those glory days, the Benzs and the Beemers, but we’ve always done it with a little less traffic and debauchery. Heeding the call of our fearless Commander In Chief, we also do it much more economically now, in Hondas and hybrids. And anyway, if you readin’ this column, ain’t YOU too old for Freaknik?
While I maintain fond (and other) memories of the annual freak-a-deek, in my old age, I’m starting to subscribe to the wisdom espoused by that lilter of the lyrics known as Killer Mike:
“I ain’t talkin’ ’bout Freaknik ’cause I ain’t no tourist!”
That don’t mean it ain’t a whole lot of other freaky stuff that happened ’round here to discuss, ‘dough. Stay tuned.
And that’s what Freaknik really was…………Back In The Day In The A.
**O.S.A.M. is a weekly feature on StraightFromTheA.com. We will be turning back the clock each Friday to reminisce about Old School ATL. Hit us up at [email protected] to share your favorite Old School Atlanta Memory. **