Media, culture, and politics from an aesthetic-materialist's perspective.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Petey Greene: Radicalizing Racial Discourse

I just finished watching the PBS documentary Adjust Your Color, on the life and times of Washington, D.C., radio and TV talk show host Petey Greene (RIP). Greene's story is remarkable: an ex-con and hustler turned community activist and self-proclaimed voice for the black community. Especially notable for me was the overlap between Greene's life story and that of the black pulp fiction icon Donald Goines, whom I wrote about last year. Both men emerged out of prison to take advantage of media opportunities that allowed them to address the ghettos out of which they had emerged. (Tragically, both men died young too.)

Here's a clip of Greene's most famous televised broadcast, in which he talks about the politics of black people eating watermelon. It's at once side-splittingly hilarious and dead-on serious. Above all, Petey Greene didn't like anyone -- black or white -- to "front," and pussyfooting around the issue of eating watermelon only distracted folks from consuming a fine piece of fruit meat.

Petey Greene (1931-1984)
From Petey Greene's Washington, D.C.
"Be Yourself" (1982)

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