Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

Seven Days in Bensonhurst

  • Series: Frontline
  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $300.00
  • Date: Copyright 1990. Released 1990.
  • Descriptors: Hawkins, Yusuf. Race relations. Murder. Blacks.
  • Production Information: Live action, Archival footage. Produced by Thomas Lennon. Narrated by Shelby Steele. Color. Closed captioned. 58 min.
  • Production Company: Documentary Consortium WGBH (Boston)
  • Available from: PBS Video 1320 Braddock Pl. Alexandria, VA 22314-1698 (703)739-5380
  • Cataloging: 305.809 Racism - New York (N.Y.)
  • Print Entry #: 2:519 Reviewer: Paula C. Murphy

    On 23 August 1989, a young black man, Yusuf Hawkins, was murdered by more than a dozen white youths wielding baseball bats in their Bensonhurst neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Because Hawkins and his three companions, who were in this neighborhood to look at a used car, became innocent victims of a racially motivated attack, the incident became the center of a racial crisis in New York - a city already filled with the racial tension created by other episodes of violence perpetrated by both blacks and whites. This live-action video presentation from the PBS Frontline series looks at the events of the seven days following the violent death of this young man. Seven Days in Bensonhurst reflects the personal views of Shelby Steele, a black faculty member at California's San Jose State University who has written many first-person commentaries on issues of race. This program was produced six months after the tragedy occurred. Supported by news film footage and interviews, Steele's study describes how the slaying of Hawkins created a media event that provided black and white politicians, black activists, white racists, and the media with an opportunity to further their own best interests. New York's mayoral candidates at the time, David Dinkins and Ed Koch, as well as the controversial black activist, Reverend Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson, are but a few of the many politicians and celebrities who are shown playing a role in the episodes that followed Hawkins' death. Interviews with reporters who were on the scene and with Bensonhurst community leaders further enhance the picture. The violent reactions of some New Yorkers to the black protest marches in Bensonhurst are recorded complete with the profanities that were expressed. Using historical footage, the production draws a parallel between this murder and that of Emmett Till in 1955. (Steele is careful to point out that these are the 1990s and racism is no longer perceived in the same way by blacks or whites.) He concludes by saying that violent eruptions of racial tension such as the one in Bensonhurst provide power for the politically wise, but only serve to frustrate whites and blacks who are striving to improve race relations.

    The technical quality of this professionally produced video is very high. Editing, lighting, and camerawork have a polished finish. The audio is sometimes muffled in the scenes shot on the Bensonhurst streets. Steele is an articulate and analytical reporter, and his interviews - with Sharpton, Hawkins' father, a minister from Bensonhurst, and various news reporters - are interesting and revealing. The presentation is well structured and the footage chosen from the march sequences more than drives its point home.

    Because of some of the rough language and the complexity of the subject matter, Seven Days in Bensonhurst should be used with high school to adult audiences. Its focus on racism, politics, and the media makes it an excellent choice for viewers interested in political science, sociology, communications, and criminal justice. This video is a timely document on racism in today's society - a subject that has become vastly important for discussion and study.

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