'Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn': Release date, plot, trailer and all you need to know about the HBO documentary
Yusuf Hawkins, a Black teenager was murdered by a group of White men in Bensonhurst Brooklyn, after being mistaken for a local White girl's boyfriend
The winds of change are sweeping the nation in light of the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter movement. The demonstrations to end police brutality and systemic racism continue more than 60 days after the death of Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis cop. The protests have also brought to the forefront the harrowing accounts of many fallen Black people who succumbed to unfair practices, demanding that they be brought to justice.
Mainstream media has not been too far behind in this cause either. Over the last few months, various networks and streaming giants have been investing in content that brings our attention to the injustices the Black communities have faced for years. HBO's newest offering is a documentary, 'Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn', which highlights one such injustice faced by a young boy and his family.
Yusuf Hawkins, a Black teenager was murdered by a group of White men in Bensonhurst Brooklyn after being mistaken for a local White girl's boyfriend. His death sparked outrage in New York, shedding light on the deep racial divisions embedded in the city. It spurred on relentless civil rights activism that exposed deep racial prejudices and inequities that still plague the country. The demands from his family and community had political consequences, which ultimately led to the ousting of New York Mayor Ed Koch, in favor of the city's first and only Black Mayor, David Dinkins. Here is everything you need to know about the unscripted film.
'Yusuf Hawkins: Storm over Brooklyn' debuts on August 12 at 9-10.40 pm ET/PT on HBO. It will be available to stream on-demand on August 13.
16-year-old East New York-native Yusuf Hawkins and three of his friends had been on a trip in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, a mostly Italian-American neighborhood, on August 23, 1989. He was checking out a used car that his friend was hoping to buy, but unbeknownst to him, a group of teenagers emerged from the subway station and walked right into a scene charged with racial tensions. A mob of White young men had gathered there, waiting and intending on confronting a group of Black guys rumored to be dating girls in their neighborhood. Yusuf and his friends were swarmed by the crowd of baseball bat-brandishing White attackers, and amidst the attack, Yusuf was shot to death.
The Hawkins family, devastated and overcome by grief at the loss of their beloved son, sought answers for Yusuf's unfair death but were rendered speechless when the police asked them to keep mum in order to prevent civil unrest. However, the word had spread to the media and two days later the family saw a front page news article on Yusuf and his death. A series of marches took over the Bensonhurst neighborhood in the aftermath, but throughout the protest and in the year following Yusuf's murder, his family, activists and demonstrators were met with intense racist criticism from residents.
A handful of young men were arrested in connection with Yusuf's murder, but the suspected shooter, Joseph Fama, had remained at large before eventually turning himself in to the authorities. Although the marches with demands of justice continued, the tensions hit a new peak when Reverend Al Sharpton, the Hawkins family's spokesperson and organizer of the marches was stabbed during a protest in January 1991. Yet, Yusuf's brother Amir observed that the protests were a turning point for the community's voices to be heard, because "There's always strength in numbers."
Now, over 30 years later, New Yorkers including Yusuf's friends and family, reflect on the tragedy and the fight for justice that followed, inspiring and dividing the city of New York. 'Yusuf Hawkins: Storm over Brooklyn' comprises a montage of archival footage, photos, witness statements and news footage. In addition, it features personal accounts from Yusuf's family and friends, including the two that had been with him the day he died. The documentary also consists interviews with Joseph Fama, Reverend Al Sharpton, Assistant District Attorney Douglas Nadjari, Defense Attorney Stephen Murphy, activist Dr Lenora Fulani and former Mayor David Dinkins.
The unscripted film is directed by award-winning director Muta'Ali Muhammad, the grandson of actor/activists Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. He is currently developing his next feature film about Cary Ball who was killed by two St Louis police officers in 2013. "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," Muhammad said about his documentary. "This film ties together the past and the present showing how racism can rear its head anywhere, even in a liberal city."
The film is produced by Jevon Frank, Victorious De Costa and Muta'Ali Muhammad. Melanie Share serves as co-producer, while Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn, Jeff Friday, Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin are executive producers. Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller and Jacqueline Glover are executive producers for HBO, and Greg Rhem is the supervising producer.
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