On August 23, 1989, Yusuf Hawkins, a 16-year-old Black teenager from East New York, Brooklyn, was shot to death by a group of white youths from the predominantly Italian-American working-class neighborhood of Bensonhurst. The killing sparked outrage throughout the Black communities in New York City, culminating in a series of protest marches through the neighborhood led by the Reverend Al Sharpton. More than 30 years later, HBO is set to release a documentary called Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, which examines the legacy of Hawkins’ killing. Watch the trailer for Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn below.
Yusuf Hawkins Storm Over Brooklyn Trailer
In a documentary that has chilling resonance for ongoing events, Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn goes back 31 years to explore the legacy of the murder of 16-year-old Yusuf Hawkins. The documentary gives background on the events surrounding Hawkins’ killing, speaking to a few of Hawkins’ friends who were with him when they were attacked by a crowd of 10 to 30 white youths, seven wielding baseball bats and one armed with a handgun that would kill Hawkins. Using archival footage, photos, witness statements, and interviews with those close to Hawkins, the documentary paints a full picture of the tragedy.
Reverend Al Sharpton, who led the protest marches throughout the Brooklyn neighborhood following Hawkins’ death, is also a major presence in the documentary, speaking about the racially charged divisions in New York City and how Hawkins’ killing was just a symptom of that. The documentary also includes interviews with Defense Attorney Stephen Murphy, Joseph Fama, who was convicted of the crime, Assistant District Attorney Douglas Nadjari, activist Dr. Lenora Fulani, and former Mayor David Dinkins.
“It’s important to remember Yusuf Hawkins, honor his life and be mindful that our martyrs have families who need our love long after the marching subsides,” director Muhammad said in a statement to Deadline. “This film ties together the past and the present showing how racism can rear its head anywhere, even in a liberal city.”
Hawkins’ death would be commemorated by Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever, which was dedicated to the memory of the teen, with his photograph appearing at the beginning of the film.
Here is the synopsis for Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn:
A deeply emotional film with chilling resonance in today’s America, Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, explores the 30-year legacy of Yusuf’s murder as his family and friends reflect on the tragedy and the subsequent fight for justice that inspired and divided New York City.
Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn premieres August 12, 2020 at 9:00 P.M. on HBO.