Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

February 6, 2009


LURMA RACKLEY, WASHINGTON POST, 2007 - Washingtonians of a certain era knew Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene in his various life phases: as a raggedy kid who could "play the dozens" better than anyone in 1930s black Georgetown; as an often inebriated yet phenomenally funny young comedian at "picnics" in Wilmer's Park; as a rapping, rhyming emcee at Lorton Reformatory, where he served time for robbery; and finally as a legendary broadcaster who charted new territory in straight talk and community activism until his death in 1984 at age 53. . .

In late 1981, Petey asked me to help him tell his life story. . . I spent most of my time cracking up with laughter. He told me that he honed his rapping, rhyming and "joning" skills as a preschool kid dead set on taking the focus off his disadvantages. His father was in jail more often than he was at home, and his mother had her own brushes with the law. His beloved pipe-smoking grandmother Maggie Floyd, known as A'nt Pig, instilled in him a fortitude and an optimism that carried him through the worst of times in his personal life. From the age of 3, Petey heard A'nt Pig say: "Boy, I know your mouth is gone get you killed or get you rich one day. 'Cause you the talkingest damn boy I ever seen.". . .

Toward the end of his life, Petey began to step into his A'nt Pig's full vision for him. He stunned his friends in 1979 when he finally gave up binge drinking. In 1981, he was baptized by the United House of Prayer's Bishop Walter "Sweet Daddy" McCullough. . .

DC Gazette, 1970 - [Activist Petey] Greene "testified" [at a council hearing on marijuana] on behalf of his grandmother, whose opinions on marijuana are based on practical experience. She once told her grandson to quit: "Petey, you gotta stop smoking those reefers because they make you too hungry, and I can't buy all that extra food." Later, on comparing its effects with those of alcohol, "She said she'd rather me smoke reefers and just sit and smile at people than drink that old wine and come in throwing chairs around. "



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