P. Frank Williams Talks Directing ‘Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told’ and Why It Was The World’s Greatest Black Festival

Launched in 1983, Freaknik would go on to attack thousands of attendees during spring break in Atlanta as the city was becoming the epicenter of Black culture.

During the 1990s, Atlanta was transforming into the epicenter of Black culture and Freaknik was unequivocally one of the driving forces behind the city becoming a hub for a new expression of Blackness. 

Launched in 1983, Freaknik was an annual spring break event on the grounds of the Atlanta University Center. Sponsored by the D.C. Metro Club, it was for students who could not afford to take the trip home for spring break. Years later, it would evolve into  “the most infamous street party.” 

More than 40 years since its birth, the story of Freanknik will finally be told.

Directed by noted filmmaker P. Frank Williams and Geraldine L. Porras, in conjunction with Mass Appeal and Swirl Films, “Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told” is a two-hour Hulu documentary that explores how a simple barbecue sponsored by HBCU students turned into an oasis of Black celebrations that attracted thousands of attendees annually. The documentary traces how the city of Atlanta would influence pop culture for years to come,

“This is more about the culture. This is Atlanta’s version of ‘Beat Street,’” said Jermaine Dupri, who also serves as executive producer along with Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell and 21 Savage. Jay Allen and Nikki Byles are also producers.

The doc also features appearances from Killer Mike, Jalen Rose, CeeLo Green, Rasheeda, and Too $hort who give firsthand accounts of the experiences at Freaknik.

“Freaknik originated from a bunch of college students who wanted to have their own spring break. It was literally a picnic with some hot dogs, and some homies trying to sell some beer to students at HBCUs,” Williams told BET. “They had State clubs, like the Tri-State Club that represented the tri-state area, or the DC Metro club that repped DC. The DC Metro Club sponsored the first one at Piedmont Park in Atlanta.

“Back then, they had a dance called “The Freak” from Chic’s song “Le Freak.” So they took the dance of that time, combined it with a picnic, and called the event “Freaknik.” I think a lot of people don't realize that Freaknik has a real foundation and an actual place where it started. I want to make sure that we show that,” Williams continued

Over the years, Freaknik has become synonymous with some of the more salacious aspects, such as the overtly sexualized enjoinment and misogyny of some of the attendees. Williams' vision was to portray Freaknik as much more than a party where young Black kids went to get “wild.”

“We wanted to tell a well-rounded story. A lot of people expected the documentary to be about just the turn-up, right? There are girls, guys, cars, and parties, and everybody's excited about that. But if you watch the film, there are more layers to it. There’s sexuality, race, culture, food, fashion, and a lot of different things.

Williams also shared that many were nervous that some of the past exploits would end in the documentary and bring embarrassment to their families. Everybody was worried about themselves, or their cousin being in the documentary,” he laughed.”They’re looking at it as a negative thing but I think it's a badge of honor. Because your auntie, daddy, your grandma or Deaconess whoever was having a good time back then.”

Williams believes the documentary is a story where the city of Atlanta is the main character.

“The star of the Freaknik documentary is Atlanta.  The film is really a music documentary. It's about how the vibes of the music being the soundtrack and the backstory of the rise of Freaknick. You can chart the rise of So So Def, L.A. Reid, and Babyface with LaFace Records, Rowdy Records, and Luke Campbell’s bass music. You can see it directly through the rise of Freaknik, Williams said.

“You can't tell the story of Atlanta becoming the “Mecca of Black America” without Freaknik. I know people don't want to embrace the fact that this sort of notorious festival helped the city rise, but economically, with all the people that moved there, the music scene, the culture, it’s undeniable,” Williams argued. So Freaknik is really about music and culture.”

With Atlanta's rise as the place to be for burgeoning creatives and entrepreneurs, the city received news that it would be hosting the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. With Atlanta garnering the world’s attention, a movement to end Freaknik gained momentum, while white spring events in places in Daytona Beach never faced the same scrutiny. According to Williams, the essence of Freaknik was comprised by some of the city’s leaders for economic opportunities and the politics of respectability.

“Cee-Lo says in the movie, ‘Big bank takes little bank’ because the Olympics was such an economic boom for  Atlanta. Even though Freaknik was a boom, it wasn't the global stage that the Olympics would have Atlanta on so the city was faced with a really difficult challenge,” Williams said. “Mayor Bill Campbell had to decide if he would support this Black community in this black city who helped him get elected or side with the white business establishment who wanted to get rid of the event.”

“I think people don't realize that the city of Atlanta tried to help Freaknik keep going. It just happened that there was just too much negativity toward the end which put the nail in the coffin,” he said.

While there have been attempts to recreate Freaknik's magic in recent times, Williams says it could never be like it was at its peak in the 1990s. He also noted that some of today’s most successful festivals have used Freaknik's blueprint.

“One of the unfortunate things that you see with Rolling Loud and Music Fest, imagine if Freaknik would have had some actual organizers, which it kind of did, but it could have been something incredible today,” Williams said.

“With the right organization, Freaknik could have been one of the biggest festivals in the world. But it was like our “Summer of Soul or our “Black Woodstock,” he continued. When people ask me if it could happen today, I think you could have a different version but things are too dangerous. People don't want to be in the moment. I don't think it could happen in today's world.”

For those who were outside or those who only heard about the wild stories or saw some archival footage, Williams hopes viewers of the doc will recognize that Atlant was the only place that Freaknik could have taken place and it was always meant to be a celebration of Black joy.

“I've been saying that the film is about Black joy. It's about us finding a safe space for us to enjoy each other and have camaraderie and fellowship. They weren't all trying to take selfies. They were just enjoying life,” Williams said. 

“Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told” is currently streaming on Hulu.

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.