By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Almost 30 years after his death, the vision of a museum honoring breakthrough martial arts star Bruce Lee is coming to fruition. Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, is spearheading the effort to build a lasting memory in his honor.
She operates the Bruce Lee Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation based in Los Angeles. Though the foundation is in LA, she believes that Seattle is the only place for the museum.
“Seattle is already a destination place for a lot of Bruce Lee fans interested in his legacy.” Lee stated. “My brother and father are buried [in Seattle].” Both Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee, who was also an actor and martial artist, are buried at Lakeview Cemetery.
“In addition, the reason that my mom brought [my dad] back to Seattle to be buried is that he really loved his time in Seattle,” Lee added. “It’s where he met my mother. It’s where he went to school and where he opened a martial arts school of his own. He thought of it as his hometown. It was a natural choice.”
Although there is no definite site for the museum, Lee hopes that it will be located in the International District. “It’s where my father had his first school.” And in terms of practicality, Lee said, “It’s adjacent to downtown and is a nice central location.”
The Bruce Lee Action Museum (BLAM) aspires to be part holistic, part historical. It will emphasize the martial artist’s core beliefs and his career. “The vision is to be state-of-the-art and not just galleries,” Lee said. “But there would be a theater, gift store, research library, and meeting places. … I would like there to be a space where some physical expression takes place. A place where it would be possible for people to encounter the physical legacy.”
Lee hopes to have a place where people can perform tai chi, yoga, martial arts, and Bruce Lee’s form of martial arts, jeet kune do.
The BLAM was initiated in 2008. However, the weakening economy derailed the project temporarily. “There was a pause,” Lee stated. “But there will be no more pauses. It’s still tough economically, but we are able to put forth the effort and focus that is needed.”
The BLAM has its share of local Bruce Lee fans, including Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell. When Harrell heard of the plans for a museum, he recalls being “totally ecstatic.”
Harrell admits to being one of Bruce Lee’s “hugest fans” and has seen all of Bruce Lee’s movies.
Bruce Lee was a source of inspiration when Harrell was an athlete coming out of Garfield High School. “I did not have a lot of Asian role models to follow athletically,” Harrell explained.
Harrell later attended the University of Washington (UW) on a football scholarship. He became the eighth leading tackler in UW history.
Harrell met Lee this past March to discuss the potential for the museum.
“I wasn’t the biggest [football player], but I took pride in being one of the quickest,” said Harrell, who found that Bruce Lee’s quickness as a martial artist was motivating in football training.
Harrell’s quickness earned him a spot on the UW football team as a linebacker.
Harrell pledges to help the museum effort by making sure the city’s Office of Economic Development and its Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs are fully engaged to assist. In addition, he stated that he would reach out to Bellevue, Redmond, and other cities on the Eastside to ensure that they provide financial support and resources to the project.
“I would also continue to promote and inspire the vision of Bruce Lee for the younger kids and the community,” Harrell said.
“The message that Bruce Lee [conveyed was the importance of] a positive self-image, self-esteem, and investing in yourself,” Harrell added. “Right now, with many youth not reaching their potential and many adults not reaching their potential, we need to commemorate a hero from our community that reached his potential. … We need a positive image, and it’s the kind of boost that the community needs.”
If placed in the International District, the BLAM would be in the same vicinity as the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. Mimi Gan, former King 5 News correspondent and current member of the Wing Luke Museum board, believes that the BLAM would be a positive addition to the neighborhood.
“There are a lot of similarities between Wing Luke and Bruce Lee,” Gan stated. “They were trailblazers that pushed boundaries and served as role models, and it seems like a natural partnership.” Gan believes that a partnership between the two museums is a possibility.
Harrell added, “I think [the BLAM] can expand and assist the Wing Luke museum to the extent it would bring resources to the Wing Luke.” Harrell has a history of supporting the Wing and made it clear that his involvement in helping the BLAM would not be to the detriment of the Wing.
The legacy of Bruce Lee continues on, and there are many in support of the museum. “I think the Bruce Lee Action Museum in the Chinatown/ID area would be a great attraction for the district, as well as Seattle,” said MulvannyG2 Chairman Jerry Lee (no relation to Shannon), one of the founding members of the BLAM committee. “Bruce Lee is an international icon and has been a source of pride for our Chinese heritage.”
“I wanted to be a big part of the BLAM because Bruce Lee has changed my life and paved the way for many Chinese people all over the world,” stated General Biodiesel CEO Yale Wong, another founding member of the BLAM committee. “He has been a role model in my life [who taught me that] I can become anybody I want and achieve anything I want to do.”
The overall goal is to raise $10 million for construction of the museum. A capital campaign will be held, which will solicit private contributions, corporate sponsorships, monies through fundraisers and other avenues of funding. Although there is a lot of work ahead, Lee is optimistic that there will be significant movement on the project in the next couple of years.
A kickoff fundraiser will be held on Oct. 21 at the Imperial Garden Seafood Restaurant in Kent to raise money for the project. Gan will emcee the event. (end)
For more information on the Bruce Lee Action Museum and the event on Oct. 21, visit www.bruceleefoundation.com.
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.