At this year’s American Black Film Festival, film director Muta’Ali’s Storm Over Brooklyn won the inaugural ABFF lightbox documentary initiative and was cosigned by HBO.
Storm Over Brooklyn is centered on the 1989 death of 16-year-old Yusuf Hawkins who was attacked and shot to death by a group of white teens in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and also deals with the regret, sadness, and questions surrounding the horridness of the case. His death shed light on the conflicted racial climate that was going on in New York and, also paved the way for David Dinkins to become listed his first and only black mayor.
So, as production is in the works to bring the story to life, here are five things to know about this case:
1 ) Who Was Yusuf Hawkins?
Yusuf Hawkins was a teen from East New York who was brutally murdered on August 23, 1989, after encountering an angry mob of white teens.
2) Hawkins was innocent and did not know the boys that killed him
According to a New York Times article, Hawkins and three of his friends went to a conservative Italian neighborhood to look at a used Pontiac to purchase, only to be cornered by an angry crowd of white teens, some of which wrongly accused him of dating a white girl in the area.
He then was shot twice in the chest and passed away at Maimonides Medical Center after the incident.
3) His death uncovered the racism in New York City
Hawkins passing brought attention to the racial divides in New York. Three years prior Michael Griffith was murdered while trying to escape a mob of white men in Howard Beach, Queens. Many polarizing protests happened across the city as a result of the tensions. Several weeks after, the mayor at the time was defeated in the primary by David Dinkins who became the first African-American mayor of New York City.
4) Some people involved in the murder were held responsible for their actions
A total of eight people were charged in the Hawkins killing, but two teens, in particular, Joseph Fama and Keith Mondello faced the crudest charges because police believed they were the primary instigators of the altercation. Fama became convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 32 years to life in prison and Mondello was acquitted of the murder, but he was convicted of rioting, discrimination, and a criminal possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to 5 to 16 years in prison.
After eight years of a sentence, Mondello was released in 1998. In 2014, he spoke to the New York daily news stating “ that kid was shot for no reason at all. It was completely senseless…” you’ll be eligible for parole in 2022.
5) To this day, he’s still remembered
All in all, after almost 30 years since his passing, and with the creation of this documentary, Yusuf Hawkins has been remembered in hip-hop songs and film such as Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, and a mural created for him has recently been restored in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.