Black Fu: African American and Asian Relations

Poster for 1974 Blaxploitation movie “Black Belt Jones”

The African American community has been interested in Asian culture dating back to the 1970s with the rise of the martial arts movie in America. These martial arts films gave birth to the fascination about the Asian culture in the community and in turn created films like Black Belt Jones.

The poster uses black silhouette images of people fighting on a white background. Those fighting appear to be going for high kicks and flips, two things typically seen in a movie martial arts fight. Above the fighters are four blocks each depicting different scenes. In the block furthest to the left shows a picture of the title character Black Belt Jones. Behind him are three people who look like they are being knocked back by a force of some kind. The look on Black Belt Jones’ face is that of determination and conviction.  In the top middle block shows a female character. This character wields a gun and appears to be fending off an attacker. In the block below her is a motorcycle caravan leading a semi down the road. The block on the right shows a man being knocked back, his feet lifting from the ground. On the left side of the poster are the words “Enter Jim ‘Dragon’ Kelly” and below, “He clobbers the mob as Black Belt Jones”

Black Belt Jones came out a year after Bruce Lee’s film Enter the Dragon. On the poster “Enter Jim ‘Dragon’ Kelly” is reference to the Lee film. The introduction of Enter the Dragon began a slew of martial arts fandom in the African American community. Films like Black Belt Jones were created to not only capitalize on the success of the martial arts films. Martial arts films and their blaxploitation counterparts began to create a form of intra-racial relationships between the African American culture and the Asian culture.

This mixing of African American and Asian culture can be seen in many examples over the past several years. There have been television shows like Afro Samurai which have mixed samurai culture with that of African American culture. On The Boondocks one of the main characters Huey Freeman is an accomplished martial artist and makes several references to Asian/martial arts culture as well as some blaxploitation film characters. The blending of the two cultures can be seen in novels as well.

In Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle the main character Gunnar Kaufman is given a mail order bride as his 18th birthday present from a friend. This marriage between Gunnar and his bride, Yoshiko, is a metaphoric marriage between the African American and Asian communities. While Yoshiko is a mail order bride, she ends up being a good match for Gunnar, an unlikely paring, which some would say about the growing relationship between the African American and Asian communities at the time.

Over the years the African American and Asian communities have been coming together. This unlikely friendship is, in part, due to the rise of the martial arts film in the United States as well as the Blaxploitation films of the time.

Image Source:Black Belt Jones. 1974. Web.30.April 2013.

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