UA students steal Brother Jed's stage with Harlem Shake and silent disco
Kyle Wasson / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Hundreds of students gathered at Heritage Hill to participate in the Harlem Shake on Wednesday in reaction to the presence on George Edward Smock, more commonly known as Brother Jed, an evangelist who preaches his beliefs on college campuses across the country. A group of students also participated in silent disco.
The area in front of the Administration building became a temporary dance floor Wednesday afternoon as more than 400 UA students gathered for two separate events.
The events were organized through Facebook by two different UA students, but they shared one significant thing in common: Both were reactions to George Edward Smock, more commonly known as Brother Jed, an evangelist who preaches his beliefs on college campuses all across the country.
Brother Jed was speaking at Heritage Hill when the dancing broke out.
Josh Solomon, a pre-computer sciences sophomore, created the Facebook event titled “UA Brother Jed Harlem Shake” on Saturday at noon. By Tuesday night, about 360 students had RSVP’d.
The Harlem Shake is the most recent viral video craze to take YouTube by storm. The videos all feature the same dubstep song and one lone dancer wiggling or pelvic thrusting for about 20 seconds before being joined by many others once the bass drops.
After a suggestion from a friend, Solomon organized the Harlem Shake at the UA.
“I like making videos so this seemed right down my alley,” Solomon said. “I also like messing with Brother Jed and Brother Dean. I think it went awesome. I did not expect this many people to show up at all.”
Students bearing various costumes and props, including hats, wigs, a princess guitar, adult diapers, cardboard signs, teddy bears and more, hid behind the hill waiting for their cue. Meanwhile, students in more casual attire blended into Brother Jed’s audience, silently awaiting their chance to dance.
“Anything that trolls the trolls is good by me. [Brother Jed] is a troll and I don’t know if he believes what he is saying or not but he is definitely raising it up to get attention,” said Ryan Smith, a communications junior. “So instead of giving him normal attention, we are going to give him this attention.”
Once the other students were in place, Solomon, dressed from head to toe in a Jesus costume, began to hip thrust near Brother Jed.
In an attempt to escape the wiggling hips, Brother Jed turned abruptly and collided with a student in a penguin suit, leaving them both in a heap on the grass.
Once Brother Jed recovered from the fall, he stationed himself near the edge of the hill, away from the action. Brother Jed said he has experienced a variety of reactions to his preaching but admits that this was one of the bigger events he has seen.
“It was foolishness. They are playing the clown and they wanted to steal the stage from me, I believe, so I just gave it to them. One guy in a penguin suit tried to block me so I shoved him away and ended up falling on top of him,” Brother Jed said. “They can do their thing but they can’t just surround me and block me.”
With a boom box playing and a camera recording all of the action, the students danced while Brother Jed looked on. At one point, even Wilbur and Wilma made an appearance.
There was a lot of energy inside the circle of dancers, however, some students didn’t find the event amusing.
“I think they are acting like they’re 5. I don’t think any physical or crowding in should be done. There should be respect,” said Tracy Smith, a computer science freshman.
The crowd of onlookers eventually moved along as Solomon and the other dancers left the hill.
Then at 1:45 p.m., a second, much quieter wave of dancing began.
Lane Funjum, a senior environmental sciences major, was the sole organizer of the silent disco, an event that invited students to download a pre-made track to their personal media players and all listen — and dance — simultaneously.
“I’ve seen [Brother Jed] now for three years. He preaches hate and I don’t like him. There are people hurt by what he is saying,” Funjum said. “I’m trying, for one period, just to drown him out.
And it’s funny because we are drowning him out without any noise.”
Prior to the event, students downloaded the music onto their media players from the Facebook group’s webpage, titled “Silent Disco Around Brother Jed.” By Tuesday night, close to 200 students had RSVP’d. A quarter before 2 p.m., the students put in their headphones, pushed play simultaneously and danced.
Jeremy Raskal, a graphic design senior and DJ, helped Funjum create the music track for the event. The two friends have watched Brother Jed since freshman year and Raskal said that it was only right for him and Funjum to collaborate and make this event happen.
“We wanted to go for really upbeat music that you could easily dance to,” Raskal said. “We thought it would be really funny if everyone just boogied down around [Brother Jed].”
Students listened to “Dog Blood” by Next Order, ”Robot Rock” by Daft Punk and Lloyd Williams’ version of “Shout,” written by the Isley Brothers. The students smiled and laughed as they yelled, “Shout!” together.
To those walking by, everyone appeared to be dancing without music, but Funjum acknowledged the strong “sense of camaraderie” among the students.
“It’s really not even supposed to be about [Brother Jed]. I am just kind of using him for my own purposes,” Funjum said. “[This was a reminder to] shake up your daily routine. It [was] a cool way to meet people. It’s just fun. It’s exhilarating and it’s something new, fresh. He was just an excuse to do this.”
For more coverage, see the Facebook album from the UA Harlem Shake Wednesday afternoon.