Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn (2020)

Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn (2020)
  • 113
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release year: 2020 ()
  • Running time: \N min
  • Original Title: Storm Over Brooklyn
  • Voted: 113

A look at the events surrounding the murder of Yusuf Hawkins, a black teenager in Brooklyn, who was killed in by a group of white youths.

  • Reminding us why and how pandemic racism existed then (and still does today) by 7

    "Yusuf Hawkins: Battle Over Brooklyn" (2020 release; 100 min.) is a documentary about the murder of 17 yr. old African-American Yusuf Hawkins in 1989. As the movie opens, we are in "Bensonhurt, Brooklyn", as the camera scans the streets and we hear shots being fired. Frantic 911 calls follow, and when the cops arrive, they find Hawkins shot twice in the chest. We then go to "East New York, Brooklyn", where Yusuf's brothers and cousins reminisce about the events leading up to August 23, 1989, and how during the 1980's the social and racial divides in New York kept rising and rising. At this point we are 10 min. into the documentary.

    Couple of comments: this is the latest documentary from Muta'Ali Muhammad ("Life;s Essentials With Ruby Dee"). Here he examines in detail what led up to the unprovoked shooting and murder of Yusuf Hawkins by a group of white teenagers. Keep in mind this is taking place in the era of the "Central Park Jogger" case and other racial-laden incidents left and right. What really blows the mind is the blatant racism exhibited by the residents of the Bensonhurt neighborhood. One of them (who was part of the group that shot Yusuf) has the nerve to respond as follows: "Racism? Never seen it", with a straight face, wow, just wow. Kudos to the film makers for the clinical precision with which they dissect every minute detail as to what took place on that fateful day in August, 1989, recreating all the relevant scenes and correlating details. It would be convenient to simply say that Yusuf and his friends ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but that would be giving an easy pass and way out of the pandemic racism that existed then and sadly still exists today in this country. As it turns out, not a lot has changed in the 31 years since the unprovoked murder of Yusuf Hawkins. One of the big questions throughout the film is of course to what extent these youth were held accountable... Just watch!

    "Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn" premiered this week on HBO and is now available on HBO On Demand, Amazon Instant Video, and other streaming services. The timing of this documentary couldn't be better, as this country continues to grapple with racial divides, stoked on by an outright racist POTUS in a desperate attempt to hold on to power, no matter what the cost. If you have any interest in social justice issues, I'd readily recommend you check out "Yusuf Hawkins: Battle Over Brooklyn", and draw your own conclusion.

  • A Total Distortion Of A Tragic Event by 1

    This documentary is, not surprisingly, a complete distortion of the events that took place that day in August, 1989. The "white mob" that confronted Hawkins and his three friends included an African-American teen who lived a block away. Over 2,000 African-Americans lived in Bensonhurst at the time. That's about 2,000 more than lived in some of the upscale "gentrified" sections of Brooklyn at the time. There were Jewish kids in the "mob," including one of the instigators. Hawkins' three friends were left unharmed, as everyone ran off when the lone shooter opened fire. The sole reason the four teens were confronted was the fact that the girlfriend of one of the "ringleaders" had a quarrel with him and promised to bring in outsiders to start trouble with him. Hawkins and his three pals stopped right in front of her house while looking for another address. They were in the area to look at a used car. They were showing some of the kids in the "mob" (which was not "angry") the paper with the ad for the car when the lone shooter opened fire. The front page of the local tabloids the next day showed some white women from the street where Hawkins was shot kneeling down around him trying to comfort him. Thanks to the cooperation of the "angry mob" members and other local residents, the shooter and the instigators were identified and arrested. A candlelight vigil attended by dozens of local residents was held in Bensonhurst a few nights after the shooting and this was also reported in the local media. The reason the community reacted negatively to the protest marches that followed was twofold; the rejection of the implication collective guilt for the entire neighborhood, which was a lot more ethnically and racially mixed than many other NYC neighborhoods, and the fact that the leaders of the marches were Al Sharpton, C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox, three of the most notorious racial arsonists in NYC, if not the nation.

    In short, a tragic case of mistaken identity by a lone loser was used to smear a fine community where hundreds of African-Americans lived, shopped, attended school and worked each day without incident.

    I might also add that a few years before these events, an Italian-American groundskeeper in the nearby Marboro Housing Project was shot and killed in cold blood by a black teen who used him for target practice in a clear racial assault There were no marches and no documentaries about that incident for some reason.

  • Revisionist history and divisive in the disguise of enlightenment by 3

    One name- Al Sharpton. If you want to see why this escalated, you only need to do the research. I have. It's terrible.

    Most people are beautiful. And love one another for who they are. Some dont. And that's a shame but it's a fact. This documentary is propaganda that will only make more of these things happen, thus more documentaries. Ridiculous.

    But more sinister, there are some employed and directed by the powers that be to make us this way; divide us under the guise of justice and progress. The only thing they do is keep us standing still.

    This doc is edited in a manor to prove it's own point, but not to document the totality of this very tragic situation. This is nothing more than a tool for those above us to keep us hating one another.

    Death of anyone by way of murder and malice is detestable. Color isnt an issue. The true issues here were never covered.

    This documentary and the ideas behind it are the reason for the killing in the first place, and that's some irony for you.

    Stop making media to make us hate one another for profit.

  • Riveting But Slightly Underbaked by 8

    A powerful revisiting of the 1989 Yusuf Hawkins killing in Bensonhurst. I myself was a 21 year old in Manhattan then, too busy partying in pre-Giuliani NYC than to follow current events much and it was far too easy to accept the narrative put forth by the local newspapers and broadcast news: that some kids had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and it was an accident, of sorts. It was also easy to accept the popular narrative that almost immediately casts doubts upon young people of color from the get-go. In the case of Yusuf Hawkins, that was cleared up in a matter of days (they were innocent) but with the Central Park Jogger it took decades to clear their names.

    The reality with the Hawkins killing is that four young black men went to check out a car for sale in a neighborhood they were unfamiliar with and almost immediately after getting off the subway, they were circled by a group of 30 or so predominantly white men, primed for a fight and armed with bats. Yusuf Hawkins was shot dead and, in the days, and months that followed it became a cause célèbre, the foundation of which was a series of incredibly tense and racially charged protest marches in Bensonhurst. The marches brought out the worst in the mostly Italian-American locals who ranted and raved on camera. No one would damage the long-fought-for image of Italian-Americans more until the cast of Jersey Shore almost 20 years later.

    To the reviewer here griping about the portrayal of Italian-Americans: there's not much to defend when you watch this film and see the things they did and hear the things they said to the protest marchers. As far as the number of African-American living in Bensonhurst in about 1990, the reviewer cites "2,000." I'm not sure what the reviewer's point was. Regardless, I think it was actually closer to 7,000...but that was within a population of 150,000. So, whether it was 2,000 or 7,000, only about 1% to 5% of the population of Bensonhurst was African-American. Minuscule compared to the white majority. If you want to get a pretty good idea of Bensonhurst at the time, just watch Spike Lee's 1991 Jungle Fever, of which he dedicated to Yusuf Hawkins.

    What enflamed the media and therefore the public during the marches was the polarizing presence of Reverend Al Sharpton. He was at a low-point in his own public image having just come off the revealed-to-be-a-hoax Tawana Brawley incident, and many viewed him as a charlatan.

    We get interviews with a lot of players, including Sharpton who certainly comes across as an eloquent and wise elder statesman now, not nearly as accredited as he should be.

    Also heard from is the almost forgotten one-term Mayor of NYC, David Dinkins. He was in many ways elected because of the color of his skin but he turned out to be the whitest NYC Mayor since John Lindsay.

    My favorite interview was with a NYPD Detective who explained his interrogation techniques with one of the suspects. Let's just say it wouldn't fly today but it certainly worked for him then.

    A few intriguing threads are left on the table. For one, Hawkins's father Moses Stewart, appears to flourish as the press conferences and marches continue. He goes from a diamond in the rough to a very polished guy. I would have liked some positing on that and why he retreated from public life and his family. I also would have liked some more interviews with the Bensonhurst denizens. But sometimes a hint is all that you need, and the filmmakers certainly exercised a lot of restraint. Perhaps too much restraint.

    Especially when viewed through the lens of 2020, the Yusuf Hawkins story is highly disturbing. At a very base level it demonstrates what the death of a son/brother/cousin/nephew could do to a family and on a larger level, it illustrates what one of the reviewers here erroneously called "pandemic," actually meaning "endemic," racism.

1Justin Mellandcomposer
2Muta'Ali Muhammaddirector
3Victorious DeCostaproducer
4N.J. Frankproducer
5Alexandra Mossproducer