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Bruce Lee and the Afro-Asian Culture Connection

W. Kamau Bell, Jeff Chang, Shannon Lee
In conversation with Sharon Ann Lee
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Episode Summary
In the 1970’s Bruce Lee captivated African American audiences with his stylish and philosophical kung fu movies. Lee was a rarity—a non-white leading man fighting oppression, crime, and racism at a time when there were still signs that read: “No dogs or Chinese Allowed” and “Whites Only.” Through the physical, mental, and spiritual embodiment of martial arts, Lee modeled an intense pride in his own cultural heritage that was an inspiration to all people of color—especially young African American men. In a special gathering to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Lee’s passing, Emmy Award-winning comedian and author W. Kamau Bell, Bruce Lee biographer and cultural critic Jeff Chang, Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee, along with moderator and cultural anthropologist Sharon Ann Lee will explore Bruce Lee’s long-lasting legacy and how he became an unexpected icon for Afro-Asian unity.

Participant(s) Bio

W. Kamau Bell is a sociopolitical comedian who is the host and executive producer of the Emmy Award winning CNN docu-series United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell. He is the author of the book The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian. Later this year, Kamau makes his Netflix debut with his new stand-up comedy special, Private School Negro. Kamau is on the advisory board of Hollaback! and is the ACLU Celebrity Ambassador for Racial Justice. The New York Times called Kamau “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years.” His writing has been featured in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Hollywood Reporter,, Salon, The LA Review of Books, and more. Hear him speaking about Bruce Lee on this edition of the Bruce Lee Podcast.

Jeff Chang has written extensively on culture, politics, the arts, and music. His books include Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, winner of the American Book Award, Who We Be: The Colorization of America, a finalist for the NAACP Image Award, and We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation, Northern California Nonfiction Book Of The Year, and declared “the smartest book of the year” by the Washington Post. His next project is a biography of Bruce Lee. Chang has also written for The Guardian, Slate, The Nation, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Believer, Foreign Policy, N+1, Mother Jones, Salon, and Buzzfeed, among many others.
Born and raised in Honolulu, he is a graduate of ‘Iolani School, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Los Angeles. He serves as the Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University.
Shannon Lee is the daughter of Bruce Lee and sister of Brandon Lee. Born in Los Angeles, she lived both in Los Angeles and Hong Kong in her early years, before attending Tulane University where she earned a B.F.A. in vocal performance. Lee returned to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Her credits include Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, WMAC Masters, High Voltage, Martial Law, Blade and Enter the Eagles. Shannon also co-wrote and sang on the album, The Mechanical Forces of Love with Medicine and has sung in concerts in Hong Kong, China and the US with renowned Cantonese singer Sam Hui. She is the CEO of the Bruce Lee Family Companies and Chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Bruce Lee Foundation.
Sharon Ann Lee is a culture and trends analyst, writer and entrepreneur who has been at the forefront of global trends and youth culture for over 15 years.  Sharon studies the big ideas that shape our changing tastes, opinions and values. Sharon is the founder of CultureBrain, a culture think tank and creative studio. She is also the co-host of the Bruce Lee Podcast, a podcast about the life and philosophies of Bruce Lee. Her work has been featured on PBS, MTV, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time and CNN.  Her work can be followed on Twitter and Instagram at @CultureBrain.