By Regina Stracqualursi
Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, a documentary that takes a closer look at the murder of Yusuf Hawkins in 1989, was recently released by HBO. Directed by Muta’Ali Muhammad ’01, a graduate of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the film features interviews with Hawkins’ family and friends as they reflect on the events that occurred and the loss of a loved one.
The film explores both the murder of Hawkins, a black 16-year-old, by a group of white teenagers, as well as the subsequent protests for racial justice, which continued from the time of the incident until 1991, according to Muhammad, who was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Documentary.
“An important takeaway is an understanding that persistent activism is effective,” Muhammad said in an interview with Rashad Robinson, the president of the racial justice organization Color of Change. “It’s also an opportunity to show people that any time you think that racism is in the past, you need to rethink it.”
Muhammad, who focuses all of his works on “love, art, and activism,” graduated from Rensselaer with a bachelor’s degree in information technology after serving as president of the Black Students Alliance. He also was a member of the African and Caribbean Students Association and a brother of the Omicron Upsilon chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. In addition to this film, Muhammad released Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee in 2014.
Watch the trailer or visit the HBO website to access the full documentary.