More than 30 years before Ahmaud Arbery’s killing in Georgia made headlines, the mob murder of 16-year-old Yusuf Hawkins on a hot night on August 23, 1989—by white men wielding bats and guns—rocked New York City. Tonight (August 12), HBO and HBO Max will retell the story in the new documentary film “Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn.”
“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 Muta’Ali Muhammad told Deadline in a July article. “This film ties together the past and the present showing how racism can rear its head anywhere, even in a liberal city.”
The incident, which occurred in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, was so ugly that in response to his son’s murder, the New York Times wrote that Moses J. Stewart wanted “the harshest possible penalty for the seven defendants accused in his son’s killing and for perhaps 20 or 30 others who, the police said, were armed with bats and ‘blunt instruments’ when they encircled Mr. Hawkins and three other black youths from the East New York section on the night of Aug. 23.” The month after Hawkins’ slaying, the Times reported that 10,000 New Yorkers attended a ”Stop the Racism Rally and Concert” in Harlem.
With archival images and videos from the era—which also include a bouncy-haired Rev. Al Sharpton leading marches through the mostly-white neighborhood (he was stabbed in the chest by a white man while marching in 1991 against the verdict)—viewers will meet Hawkins’ family and friends, hear witness statements and more.
As for the mob, the Times reported that eight men were tried, one was convicted of murder, four were convicted of weapons possession and rioting, and three were acquitted of all charges.
Watch the trailer below, courtesy of HBO: