Yusuf Hawkins, a Black teenager from East New York who was shot and killed by a white mob in Bensonhurst in 1989, will be honored 32 years after his death with the co-naming of the important site in abolitionist history at 227 Duffield Street as a landmark step to honor and preserve Brooklyn’s history.
Thanks to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Council Member Brad Lander and Council Member Robert Cornegy, who announced the street co-naming, enacted by Council on Jan. 17.
Yusuf Kirriem Hawkins was born in the East New York, Brooklyn on March 19, 1973.
According to the release, Hawkins’ name became a national rallying cry after he was shot and killed at the age of 16 while visiting with three of his friends in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst, where they were set upon by a white mob. In the wake of his killing, which came in the same year as the racially charged, Central Park Five case, racial tensions erupted between Black and white New Yorkers.
The Reverend Al Sharpton led a series of marches through Bensonhurst demanding justice for Hawkins. Five convictions were handed down for the men involved in Hawkins’ killing. Though Hawkins did not live to see the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, which sprung up in the wake of the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, many see his tragic murder and the wave of activism it catalyzed, which brought greater awareness about racist violence against people of color, as a precursor to the movement, said the statement.
The measure also honored Pete Hamil, a legendary newspaper columnist, born in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn on June 24, 1935, the son of Irish immigrants. He dropped out of high school at 15 to work as a sheet metal worker at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and joined the US Navy before returning to New York in 1957. After spending three years as a graphic designer, he got an opportunity to write for the New York Post despite having no journalistic experience.
He spent the next several decades working in journalism in a variety of roles at the New York Post, New York Daily News, and Newsday. In addition, he was a celebrated and prolific author of fiction, nonfiction, essays, and screenplays.
Hamill received numerous accolades for his writing, including a Grammy Award in 1976 for his notes on Bob Dylan’s album “Blood on the Tracks” and a George Polk Career Award. He died at the age of 85 in Brooklyn in August of last year.
According to reports, the co-naming ceremonies will take place in the coming weeks.