On this dayAug 23, 1989

Black Teen Murdered by White Mob in Brooklyn, New York

On August 23, 1989, 16-year-old Yusef Hawkins and three friends went to the predominately white Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York, to inquire about a used car for sale. While walking through the neighborhood, the four black boys encountered a group of thirty white youths gathered in the street. Armed with baseball bats and at least one handgun, the white boys set upon the black boys. Yusef was shot twice in the chest and later pronounced dead at nearby Maimonides Medical Center.

Later investigation revealed that a neighborhood girl, Gina Feliciano, had recently spurned the advances of a young white man in the neighborhood and was rumored to be dating an African American. Angry, the rejected white boy gathered friends to lay in wait for the black boyfriend they believed would be visiting Ms. Feliciano. Yusef Hawkins, who had no connection to the white girl, walked into this scene of racial tension and lost his life.

The death of Yusef Hawkins was the third murder of a black male by a white mob in increasingly racially-polarized 1980s New York. Shortly after the slaying, Rev. Al Sharpton led a protest march through Bensonhurst. Neighborhood residents met the protesters with such intense resistance that one marcher said she had “not been through an experience like this since the 60s.” A year after Hawkins’s murder, 18-year-old Joseph Fama was convicted of second-degree murder and a string of lesser charges and sentenced to thirty-two years in prison. Five other participants were charged in connection with Hawkins's murder and received lesser sentences.

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