Jim Kelly Was A Blaxploitation Legend

movie poster
Via Flickr
Adé Hennis
May 23, 2024

Black movies were booming in the 1970s. Over 200 Blaxploitation films featuring Black casts and crews were released in that decade. In those films, one actor stood out. Black Belt Jones.

Was it the perfect fro? The funky outfits? Or was it his trademark “SUUUEEYY” that this real-life karate champion yelled while kicking butt?  (Answer: All of the above.)  But off screen his real name was Jim Kelly.

Kelly's role in the 1973 Bruce Lee movie made him a star, and his Kung Fu movies provided some protection during the rise of the Black Power Movement. This wasn’t only because of his popularity but also because we knew he could back up his words.

No matter how many martial arts he knew, one of Kelly’s special gifts was his ability to be not just an actor, but a cultural influence.

Kelly’s influence lives on in our culture and shows why representation inspires our community to do better, defend ourselves, and lean into our power. SUUUEEY!