HBO’s ‘Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn’ Examines a Senseless Murder (VIDEO)

Storm Over Brooklyn Yusuf Hawkins
Courtesy of Hawkins Family/HBO

This is the story of Yusuf Hawkins, a black teenager who was murdered in 1989 by a group of young white men in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Yusuf Hawkins’ death and the official response to it sparked outrage in New York, unleashing a torrent of racial tension and spurring tireless civil rights activism that exposed deep racial prejudices and inequities which continue to plague the country today. Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn premieres Wednesday, August 12 on HBO.

Over 30 years later, New Yorkers, including Yusuf’s family and friends, reflect on the tragedy and the subsequent fight for justice that inspired and divided New York City. The film utilizes archival footage and photos, witness statements, news footage, in addition to candid interviews.

Storm Over Brooklyn Yusuf Hawkins with mother

Courtesy of Hawkins Family/HBO

The documentary also includes interviews with Defense Attorney Stephen Murphy; Joseph Fama, who was convicted of the crime; Reverend Al Sharpton, who became the family’s spokesperson; Assistant District Attorney Douglas Nadjari; activist Dr. Lenora Fulani; and former Mayor David Dinkins.

On August 23, 1989, sixteen-year-old East New York-native Yusuf Hawkins and three of his friends made a trip to the predominantly Italian-American neighborhood of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn to view a used car his friend was hoping to buy. Unknowingly, the teenagers emerged from the subway station into a racially charged scene.

Yusuf and his friends were quickly surrounded by the crowd of white attackers wielding baseball bats. In the midst of the attack, Yusuf was shot to death.

Storm Over Brooklyn Yusuf Hawkins Amir Hawoins Freddy Hawkins

Courtesy of Hawkins Family/HBO

Devastated by the senseless murder and seeking answers, the Hawkins family was shocked when police asked them to stay silent in order to prevent civil unrest. However, the press caught wind of the story two days later and the family was met with Yusuf’s face on the front page of the newspaper. Though a handful of young men were arrested in connection with Yusuf’s murder, the suspected shooter, Joseph Fama, remained at large before eventually turning himself in.

Today, a mural dedicated to Yusuf has been erected in Brooklyn, a sign that for his community, and many more, Yusuf Hawkins’ life will never be forgotten.

Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, Premiere, Wednesday, August 12, 9/8c, HBO