Given the recent Black Lives Matter protests that have swept America and social media, the upcoming HBO documentary “Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn” feels extremely relevant and timely. 

The documentary tells the story of Yusuf Hawkins, a Black teenager who was murdered in 1989 by a group of white men in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Yusuf Hawkins’ death sparked outrage in New York, especially when word got out that the police had asked the Hawkins family to stay silent to prevent civil unrest. This unleashed a torrent of civil rights protests and activism, which was met by intense racist vitriol from residents.

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Over 30 years later, the story is incredibly pertinent, as deep racial prejudices continue to lead to racialized violence, anti-racist activism, and harsh backlash.

Directed by Muta’Ali Muhammad, the film utilizes archival footage and photos, witness statements, news footage, and candid interviews with Yusuf’s family and friends. The film also includes interviews with Defense Attorney Stephen Murphy, Reverend Al Sharpton, who became the family’s spokesperson, Assistant District Attorney Douglas Nadjari, activist Dr. Lenora Fulani, former Mayor David Dinkins, and Joseph Fama, who was convicted of Yusuf’s murder.  

“Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn” was selected from more than 300 submissions as the winning project of the inaugural Feature Documentary Initiative created by the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) and Academy Award-winning production company, Lightbox, as part of its partnership to foster diversity in the feature documentary arena. The program is open to all African-American documentary filmmakers and any documentary filmmakers interested in exploring nonfiction stories that speak directly to the Black experience.

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This documentary looks to be a deeply emotional film with chilling resonance. Though it examines an event from 1989, the narrative is disturbingly applicable to today’s America. 

“Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn” debuts Wednesday, August 12 on HBO and HBO Max.