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Unlikely Hero: Rapping with Petey Greene

John L. Jackson, Dosinda Alvite


This essay is an attempt to recover the life and legacy of Ralph “Petey” Greene, an influential African American broadcaster and community leader whose career in Washington, D.C. spanned the juncture between the civil rights and the black power movements. It argues that his most effective vehicle was his performative style of communication through the aggressive language of the streets that was confrontative and disruptive, to be sure, but that may be viewed also as a violent abridgement of normative mainstream social codes in their privileging of proper English and in their insistence upon respectable and appropriate subject matter for the airwaves. Additionally, his style had the power to create community through revaluing traditional black idioms and forms of speech. Petey Greene went against mainstream codes by both calling attention to his African American racial consciousness in a public forum like the radio, and by using linguistic codes that gave him street credit, but were up to that period less assertively used on the airwaves.


Petey Greene, black broadcasters, DJ, urban radio, violence, signifying, Talk To Me, Chitlin Circuit, cultural authenticity, language, communicative style, voice, activism, rapping, aggressive, linguistic violence, performance

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Journal on African Philosophy. ISSN: 1533-1067 (online).
Editor: Olufemi Taiwo.

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