Jim Kelly, iconic images and Black heroes

by Richard Muhammad

When I heard about the passing of Jim Kelly it just didn’t seem right to limit news of his passing to a wire story and recounting how he played alongside fellow martial arts legend Bruce Lee in “Enter The Dragon.”

According to the Associated Press, the man I revered growing up as “Black Belt Jones” was 67-years-old at the time of his passing and the cause of death was cancer. “Sporting an Afro hairstyle and sideburns, Kelly made a splash with his one-liners and fight scenes in the 1973 martial arts classic. His later films included ‘Three the Hard Way,’ ‘Black Belt Jones’ and ‘Black Samurai,’ ” the Associated Press noted. “During a 2010 interview with salon.com, Kelly said he started studying martial arts in 1964 in Kentucky and later moved to California where he earned a black belt in karate. He said he set his sights on becoming an actor after winning karate tournaments. He also played college football,” AP noted.

But the “Black Dragon” was more than just an actor: He was a huge screen hero for millions of Black boys like me. He was fearless, unconquerable, handsome, always got the girl and was always on the right side. The right side? Yes. The right side, as in, somehow he was always standing as a champion for Black people and always associated with either a group of revolutionaries, gang members of like-minded brothers in the ‘hood. You didn’t need someone else to come to the rescue when you had Black Belt Jones and crew on deck. There was an idealism in pursuit of what was right and there was always a “fine sister” in distress, who usually could kick butt in her own right. They were a team and we had a team that looked like us and a team that was trying to right wrongs done to us. [READ MORE]

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