Why We Can’t Have Nothin’: “Freaknik The Musical” and How I Learned to Wear Sensible Shoes
Of course I’ve never been to Freaknik. Of COURSE not. I didn’t go to an HBCU and it was banned by the time I was of age anyway. What I do know about is Philadelphia’s Greek Picnic. When I was little my dad took me a few times. He’d perch me on his shoulders, showing his first born baby girl off to his frat brothers. But that’s back when it was a picnic; by the time I went again I was in college and it wasn’t about the actual event, it was about people hanging out on South Street and Broad Street half-naked dragging along pit bulls and/or snakes for the “afterparty” (as if walking or driving through packs of dudes while they gawk, grab, and try to holla at you is a “party”, but whatever). What stands out about the two times I participated in the revelry?
The first time I ended up in a stampede down South Street after someone started shooting (or a car backfired, you can never be sure). I learned not to wear shoes you can’t run in, a rule that came in handy when I found myself in a sixty story building in Manhattan on September 11th, 2001.
The second time was one summer during college, when I was in a car tooling down Broad Street with three other girls the evening after The Greek. We saw a pack of boys who couldn’t have been more than fourteen years old standing around in the street and in an effort to be cute the driver got out of the car and pulled off her belt, shouting “y’all need to be in the house, y’all need a beating!” The boys ran to the car and immediately started ripping her clothes off and reaching inside through the windows and sunroof trying to get at the rest of us. The driver started screaming, “I’m naked! Help me!” So I passed the cover-up shirt that I had with me up to the front seat. Within moments that was ripped to shreds also and all that was left was a single cuff. It was humiliating and disgusting. We were all shocked, including the now scratched and topless driver. After we managed to drive off she tried to report the incident to the cops that, incidentally, the city had put out there to prevent mess like what had just happened. They gave us a “you shouldn’t even be out here,” speech and that was that. Here’s the part with the twist…homegirl who’d been the victim (and cause) of the attack decided to drive around covering herself with just one arm, pulling up to random guys, telling them about what’d happened, and asking if she could have their shirts. I don’t know what I would do in her position but engaging in the flirting that was inherent in that solution – basically telling dudes that they should take their shirts off and drawing attention to the fact that you’re half naked – would not have been an option. Eventually some dude gave her his wife-beater and we left Broad Street to go…guess where? To her aunt’s house to get a REAL shirt so that we could go back out to Broad Street and not miss the party of the year! By the time I got home I’d lost all faith in men AND women, and never again went to any black event promising to be a huge outdoor party.
This post wasn’t supposed to be about any of this but I’m having a stream of consicousness kind of day. The point was supposed to be that L’il Wayne, Snoop Dogg, and Big Boi among others, are all providing voices for T-Pain’s upcoming Cartoon Network special “Freaknik: The Musical,” and you can watch the trailer here. I don’t really have a developed opinion on this trailer, I just don’t want anything to do with yet another chance for black culture to have an entertainment venue turned into a display of coontastic nonsense. When it comes to representation of black America on television, yes that is why we don’t have nothin’. When it comes to the events themselves, I’ll never be convinced of the value of any event where sexuality is at the forefront, especially sexual behaviors that so closely mirror the “slave sexuality” where women put themselves on display, rile up the men, and are then pursued or assaulted because of the atmosphere. There may no longer be a Freaknik but there are events that resemble it in many cities, notoriously anything that Luke puts together in Miami. Maybe I’m too old and un-cute for all of that now and that’s what driving my disgust, but creating venues for hypersexual behavior? Yeah, that’s why we can’t have nothin’.