Remembering Geoffrey Lee, Chinatown Activist

Geoffrey Lee. Photo by Peter Hurley

Geoffrey Lee, a local activist, musician and actor, died on Feb. 19 at age 69. His brother, Jan Lee, a fellow activist in the Chinatown community, provided this remembrance.

Geoff was a lifelong Chinatown resident, and like myself, grew up in the buildings bought by our grandfather and where my parents raised five children. He attended PS 23 (the much talked about 70 Mulberry St.) and Brooklyn Tech. His giving back to the community was formed in the Basement Workshop and a youth program called Project Reach, organized by the Chinatown Demo (Democratic) Club. The program was instrumental in Geoff's activism as his generation tried to define what it is to be "Asian American."  And it was that 1970's era Asian-American collective that produced historic multimedia programs and projects as well as some of the city’s most notable Asian American leaders.

An accomplished composer and musician, Geoff played bass guitar in Punk and Rock bands Fierce Jones and The Heat, which toured the U.K. In New York City, he performed at CBGBs & Max's Kansas City. His acting career spanned 60 roles including Off Broadway, film and television. As a Chinatown musician, actor and activist he mentored young people of all races. He supported Hamilton Madison House for decades and helped found COMA (Chinatown Organization of Media Awakening) where he provided training and apprenticeships for the next generation of Asian American artists.

Geoff was righteous in his choice of causes celebre. He was against war and racism, against building new jails, and supported Black Lives Matter as well as the rights of indigenous peoples, and the LGBTQIA community. He was against discrimination in all forms, speaking out on the steps of City Hall, Council Chambers, community board meetings, and rallies and marches. Indeed, he inspired me to use my own voice against injustice and amplify the voice of our community.

To the end, he was against Hate and fully encouraged Love. May his legacy live on.

Geoff is survived by his wife, Holly Cady-Lee and his two children Morgan Cady-Lee and Devon Cady-Lee, sisters Audrey Lee and Valerie Tom, and myself.