On the night of Aug. 23, 1989, 16-year-old Yusuf Hawkins went with his East New York friends to the predominantly Italian-American neighborhood of Bensonhurst, responding to a used car sales ad. After being misidentified as the boyfriend of a local girl, Hawkins was attacked by an angry mob of young white men, and was eventually shot dead. His death sparked outrage, bringing simmering racial tensions to a boil, leading to an aftermath that engulfed the city as Hawkins’ family demanded justice. Directed by Muta’Ali Muhammad
(“Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee”) the HBO documentary, “Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn
,” relives that tragic night that exposed deep racial prejudices which continue to haunt the country today.
Ahead of the opening of Spike Lee
’s incendiary ”Do the Right Thing
” just a month prior on July 21, 1989, a few mostly white critics predicted that the film’s portrayal of racial divisions in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood might lead to riots.