Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland” rang out across the Main Green late on a brisk October evening. It was Saturday night of Family Weekend, and students, parents, and alumni flocked toward the sunken terrace it was coming from. Funk Night was back.
Remembered by alumni from the ’80s and ’90s as “epic,” Funk Night was a Thursday fixture, 10 p.m. to midnight. “Part of the fun was being in Keeney Quad or your off-campus apartment and you could hear the music thumping,” says Mike Householder ’89. “You start walking a little bit faster until you’re running to the dance floor because the party is on.”
At some point Funk Night appeared only on Reunion weekend, says organizer Alejandro Jackson ’25. “My mom [Agueda Hernandez ’92, ’96 MD] was here while it was a regularly occurring thing,” Jackson says. “When I got accepted she said half-jokingly, ‘you’re going to have to bring back Funk Night.’ ”
Jackson didn’t think much about it until the end of his first year at Brown, when he began talking with friend Dhruv Anand ’25: “It was all jokes until it wasn’t.”
The pair worked to “keep it as similar as possible, but bring that into today’s day and age,” Jackson says. With significantly more student organizations on campus now than 30 years ago, securing funding and space was challenging, but they nailed down four nights in fall semester.
Students came to destress, to be with friends, and most importantly, to dance.
What differentiates Funk Night from other social events is the music, Anand says. People “don’t want stuff they hear at other parties. We’re bringing a unique musical scene.”
That was also the draw in the ’80s, says Courtney Small ’87, whose social life at Brown mostly revolved around Black fraternities and sororities. Funk Night stood out. “It was mixed racially and the songs were mixed, too,” Small remembers. “Half was funk and rap and half was danceable pop. All my friends loved Funk Night—my white friends, my Black friends, my Latino friends.”
Recalls Householder, “You’d be freezing as you walked over in a T-shirt, but you knew by the end of the night you’d be absolutely soaked.”