Evergreen Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York

Yusuf Hawkins was a gentle, quiet, sixteen-year old black man. 

Upon scouring the internet researching for this page, this was the only information I was able to find regarding Yusuf Hawkins the person.  I did find much regarding the events that took his life and the political maelstrom that was its aftermath - how Yusuf went into Bensonhurst, New York to look at a used car that had been advertised in the paper,  how a gang of white men accosted him, and how one of them shot Yusuf twice in the chest just for the color of his skin.  It was at that point, it seems that Yusuf the person died and Yusuf the cause began. 

Yusuf's funeral seemed about much more than the quiet, young black man who had been so heinously ripped from this world.  Angry mobs of white demonstrators clashed with police and with the bodyguards of the Nation of Islam who were enlisted to watch over the funeral goers.  Spike Lee attended the funeral and would later use a picture of Yusuf in a dedication during the opening of his film "Jungle Fever."  Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson also were present.  Jesse Jackson was overheard commenting "He did not die for nothing.  He could help get a black mayor elected."


It is understandable how larger issues obscure the individual, and far be it for me, a Midwestern, white-bread Caucasian to patronize African-Americans by trying to understand their devastating history, but is this how they have felt for the past centuries?  Has their individuality been stripped by the larger injustices of subjugation and  prejudice?  My hope is that as we battle the larger ideals that we can make an effort to remember the individuals who have suffered.

I find myself looking at Yusuf's tombstone and feeling sorrow on two fronts.  One - for the almost unparalleled wrong  done to him at the hands of a white man, and two - the message on that tombstone.  At the bottom reads "our baby," sweet words that a mother could have spoken.  At the top - a clenched fist.              

                                                                                             -Todd, Death 2ur







-the death 2ur

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