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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn’ On HBO, A Documentary About One Of New York’s Most Divisive Race-Related Murders

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For those who remember what New York City was like in the 1980s and early ’90s, the Yusuf Hawkins case stands out for a couple of reasons. One was the fact that 16-year-old Hawkins was a good kid who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and because Hawkins and his friends were surrounded by a mob of white teenagers, who had the mistaken notion that they were there for a party held by one of the mob’s white female classmates. The resulting racial tension that unfolded over Hawkins’ murder in August of 1989 is documented by director Muta’Ali Muhammad in Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn.

The Gist: Muhammad takes an in-depth look at the circumstances that placed Hawkins and his friends, from East New York, Brooklyn, in the mostly-white Bensonhurst neighborhood on August 23, 1989. They were there to take a look at a used car. But the group of teen boys who surrounded them while brandishing baseball bats felt they were there on the invite from Gina Feliciano, the former girlfriend of Keith Mondello, and that they were there to fight the group of white teens. Hawkins ended up getting two bullets right above his heart.

After Hawkins’ death, with his mother Diane so distraught that she could barely speak out to the media, his father, Moses Stewart, became the face of the family to the media, despite the fact that he was out of the lives of Yusuf and his brothers Amir and Freddy until earlier that year. Stewart was the one who got in touch with Rev. Al Sharpton, who led a dozen marches in Bensonhurst to protest Hawkins’ death through the trials of Mondello, the accused ringleader, accused trigger man Joey Fama and others from that mob.

During those protests, archival footage shows just how much anger emanated from Bensonhurst’s then mostly-Italian population (it’s been slowly giving way to an Asian influx) towards Sharpton, who just came off representing Tawana Brawley when her racially-charged kidnapping was deemed to be faked, and the Black population in general. The invective coming from the people from the neighborhood sounds shocking now but was par for the course back then.

Muhammad interviews Hawkins’ mother, brothers and friends, as well as Sharpton, Mondello’s defense attorney Stephen Murphy, law enforcement, DAs who tried the case and first responders. Also interviewed was Fama, coming to the end of a 32-year sentence for Hawkins’ murder, and former mayor David Dinkins, who defeated Ed Koch in the mayoral primary that year and visited Hawkins’ family in a show a solidarity during the campaign.

Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn
Photo: HBO

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Pretty much any documentary or movie that explored New York’s racial tensions in the ’80s. There’s a reason why films like Do The Right Thing were made back then; the whole decade revealed the city as a massive racial tinder box waiting to explode.

Performance Worth Watching: Even over 30 years later, the dignity of Diane Hawkins is remarkable. She still gets emotional talking about her middle son Yusuf and how he had plans to have a successful life after school, but she’s very clear-eyed about what happened back then. She’s especially strong when she talks about how Moses helped her when she couldn’t be the face of the movement, but she knew when to send him on his way when he tried to take over how she conducted herself during all those news conferences and marches.

Memorable Dialogue: Sharpton about the invective he and the protesters got during their marches in Bensonhurst: “I have never — I guess because I was born in the North — but I had never seen such unrefined, open hate in my life. Ysuf Hawkins took away this veneer that [the city] had gotten away with to the world of ‘cosmopolitan New York.’ Rednecks are like this; Bensonhurst made me say, ‘What? New Yorkers are like this?’”

Our Take:  It could be because I followed the tabloid and TV news reports of Hawkins’ murder 31 years ago — by then, I was ready to enter college, so I wasn’t exactly a kid back then — but I was fascinated with Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn. It could be because it filled in my blanks or the things I didn’t remember about the case. Or it could simply have been the remarkable access Muhammad got to talk to people like surviving members of Hawkins’ family, his friends, Sharpton, Dinkins and more. That access is the key to put the Hawkins case in the perspective of the racial tensions that were boiling over in New York during the ’80s. But it also couches the murder in today’s world, despite the fact that it was released pre-pandemic and pre-George Floyd.

Hawkins’ murder was one of the tipping points of a decade that included the Bernie Goetz case, the Central Park jogger case, and the Howard Beach incident where a mob of white men chased a Black man onto a highway, where he was hit and killed. But it’s amazing to know that the invective coming from everyone from Ed Koch to the residents of Bensonhurst — some of whom may have been “connected” — didn’t disappear but was merely buried underground until Donald Trump became president. The statements and generalizations you hear coming from people back then sound shocking now, but they were a fact of life then. But what the film points out just by detailing the case, is that the kind of racism that got Hawkins killed has always been there, and didn’t go away after Rudy Giuliani beat Dinkins in 1993.

The film only barely addresses the bad reputation Sharpton had back then, especially after the Brawley incident, but he does get a dressing down from Russell Gibbons, the mob’s “one Black friend”, who thinks Sharpton instigated the people of Bensonhurst into that level of hate and invective. But hearing Sharpton now, after he reshaped his image over the past 30 years, shows that his incentive behind the protests was (mostly) pure, and that he’ll be proven to be on the right side of history, even if he’ll never be considered to be a civil rights hero like the recently-deceased John Lewis is.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn depicts a version of New York that millennials and zoomers probably know little about, but it does indicate that the racial tension that exploded with the murder of George Floyd has always been there, and will likely not be solved any time soon.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, VanityFair.com, Playboy.com, Fast Company.com, RollingStone.com, Billboard and elsewhere.

Stream Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn On HBO Max

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The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses

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When it comes to online gambling, the industry is thriving in 2020. Although casinos are banned in many countries, people still find ways to enjoy their favorite games of chance. However, considering the level of competition on the market, it may be difficult for a beginner to find a good online platform and take advantage of all offers. In this article, you will learn the benefits of casinos’ welcome bonuses.

What Is a Sign-Up Bonus?

As we have already established, the industry is growing rapidly and companies are desperately looking for new ways to attract customers. A welcome bonus is often used by online casinos to get new leads and players in the future. However, the best casino bonuses can be easily used to the player’s advantage. Here are the main reasons you should not neglect this offer.

  1. It saves your money

Quite obvious, right? Well, this is the main reason why you should always use welcome bonuses in online gambling: it is always better to not risk your own money. It is especially true for beginners. Since they have no experience, it is fairly common for beginners to lose their initial investment and be done with gambling for good. However, if you use your welcome bonus as a way of getting the basics skills, the chances of success will rise significantly.

  1. It allows you to try several games

Another common issue beginners face is a lack of understanding of which types of games they want to try: slots, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc. If you use your sign-up bonus, you will be able to play several games and choose the ones you like better. Moreover, you can take advantage of a welcome bonus on several online gambling platforms. That way you will try out even more options.

  1. It will make future gambling more profitable

Besides beneficial sign-up bonuses, good online casinos usually have great loyalty programs. For instance, the company may double up to five first deposits on the platform. If you invest 100 USD, you will get 200 USD to your account. More money — more games — more chances of winning.

Although a welcome bonus is a great way of upping your gambling game, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Firstly, a good bonus does not equal a good platform. Before choosing a casino, make sure that the company is legal and trustworthy. Since there are many scams right now, it is essential if you want to save your money. Moreover, check the available deposit/withdrawal methods and their terms.

We hope that this article has shown the true power of online casinos’ welcome bonuses and how you can use them to your own advantage. Follow our tips while choosing a platform and enjoy the best gambling experience.

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3 Key Mistakes to Avoid When Playing Blackjack

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Blackjack is the most popular casino game in the world. The card game, sometimes referred to as ‘21’, accounts for an average of 31 percent of all casino table traffic – this is consistent both online and in physical casinos. For reference, the second most popular is roulette (24%) followed by poker (21%).

It’s easy to understand blackjack’s popularity. It’s a simple game to grasp and offers players a mix of luck and skill: luck in the cards that are drawn, skill over how those cards are dealt and a player’s eventual hand. Compare that to roulette, which is based entirely on luck, and poker, which has a huge skill element to it.

However, while the beauty of blackjack is in its simplicity, there are also a number of complexities to the game, and as is the case with almost anything in life, you learn more from mistakes than successes.

With that in mind, here are three key mistakes to avoid when playing blackjack that can significantly increase your chances of winning, while limiting your losses.

Choosing the Wrong Table

Before a single card is drawn, being at the wrong table – whether live or online – is the first mistake to avoid.

First of all, each blackjack table will have different minimum bet requirements so avoid choosing one that is out of your budget. For instance, if you choose a table with a $100 minimum bet and your budget is $200, you might only play two hands.

Secondly, check the payout odds on the blackjack table. These are typically 6:5 and 3:2 and will affect how much gets paid out when you hit blackjack and land other bonus wins. Where possible, choose a 3:2 table as it pays out higher.

Thirdly, choose between a virtual and a live table. This is not so much a mistake to avoid but more comes down to personal preference. Virtual tables allow players to play against an automated computer, so you can play at your own pace, while live tables are usually quicker paced as human dealers are keen to move the game along.

When to Hit and Stand

As a general rule, most blackjack players know to hit when the hand is 12 and to stand when the hand equals 17. However, there are plenty of variables to consider that could influence when to hit and stand. Getting these right can really boost your chances of beating the house, while getting it wrong could prove costly.

One key move to implement is to always hit on a soft 17 – when the two cards are an ace and a six. This means that if you draw a 10 or picture card (jack, queen, king), then you convert your hand into a hard 17. It also gives greater flexibility if you draw a smaller value card as the ace can be used as a one.

While many players adopt a strict ‘never bust’ policy, meaning they always stand when their hand equals 12 or more, this can be ill-advised as it depends almost entirely on the dealer going bust.

Instead, analyze the value of your two cards compared to the dealer’s first card and weigh up the risk factor in drawing another card before the dealer draws their second. As a strict rule, if your first two cards equal 17 or more, then stand – anything else can be hit depending on the situation.

When to Split and Double

If you are playing in a blackjack tournament, either online or live, learning when to split and double can make all the difference to your chances of success. The same also applies to individual games of blackjack.

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Splitting is when you split two cards when dealt the same value cards, so a pair of eights for example. Doubling is when you are given the option to double your bet after being dealt your initial two cards.

While it can be tempting to split and double at every opportunity to increase your winning, doing at the right time is the key.

It is not recommended to split when:

  • You are dealt two picture cards or two 10s
  • You are dealt two 9s
  • You are dealt two 5s
  • The dealer holds a 10 or picture card

It is best to split when:

  • You are dealt two 8s
  • You are dealt two aces
  • The dealer holds a 5 or 6 (as this is the highest probability of a bust)

Similar to knowing when to hit and stand, take a brief moment to assess the dealer’s drawn card compared to your own two cards and determine whether the probabilities are in your favour.

Likewise, knowing when to double down – when not to double down – can change the complexities of your blackjack game. A simple rule to know when to double is if your two cards equal 10 and the dealer’s card is between 2-9. Additionally, if you hold an ace, you can consider a double as these have the flexibility of playing as 11 or 1. But if the dealer’s card is an ace, ignore the double.

Conclusion

Blackjack may be a simple game but there are some important strategies to keep in mind next time you head to the virtual or live table. The game itself is still rooted in luck so there are never any guarantees to long-term success. However, by keeping these three important rules in mind, you can at least avoid making avoidable mistakes.

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Top 5 Entertainment Activities for College Students

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The life of college students is sometimes too complicated. They have to face tons of homework assignments that steal their time. Many students get stressed because of continuous learning. They seem to forget how to relax. If you’re a busy student, you should remember that you’re still young and shouldn’t waste this precious life stage. You can undertake some entertainment activities sometimes. Take your friends and organize funny games to unwind and let off some pressure. We asked writing experts from a professional essay service Smart Writing Service to share their ideas and provide you with top-5 entertainment activities for college students you may like. 

Who Are You?

Students, especially freshmen, don’t know each other perfectly. They may be taken by surprise when some of them tell something quite unexpected about their hobbies, preferences, and so on. If you want to know other students better, suggest playing a game called “Who Are You”.

Form at least three teams. If there are many folks, you can form more teams. Choose a speaker of the game. It may be even one of your teachers or professors. All groups will be given topics to discuss. The speaker is supposed to announce a new topic every few minutes. You may discuss and answer the following topics:

  • What is the greatest challenge you are facing?
  • What do you like or hate most about yourself?
  • What is your greatest value in life?
  • What emotions do you express easily?
  • What is the most valuable thing in friendship?
  • Who you want to become in five years?
  • What is your major objective for next year?
  • Is there something you want to improve about yourself?
  • What motto do you try to live by?
  • Where would you like to travel?
  • If you were to study abroad, what country would that be?

Students should write their answers on index cards. The speaker should gather the answers of every student and shuffle them. Afterward, he/she redistributes them randomly to students. Each person should guess whose card he/she is holding. Play this game after you spend some time together and already know at least something about one another.

Sentence Completion

Another fun activity is “Sentence Completion.” Most people like it because it’s commonly accompanied by laughter and good mood. It’s necessary to prepare a list of sentences. Those sentences should have a beginning, but with no end. Every student should finish the sentence he/she gets. Oftentimes, students give funny answers. At times, they are quite serious, and we can learn something important about other students. Here are several sentence beginnings you may choose:

  • Before I came to college, I was interested in…
  • When I was a child, I wanted to become…
  • The best moment I remember most about high school is…
  • My favorite pet is…
  • The things I value most are…
  • Five years from now I hope to be…
  • My greatest personality trait is…
  • My favorite subject at high school was…
  • If I could change one thing in the world, it would be…
  • My greatest fear is…
  • After I graduate from college, I…

The Reception Line

You may likewise try another entertaining activity for college students. It is called “The Reception Line.” Gather all the mates eager to participate. Divide yourselves into two groups. If you form more, it won’t fit the rules of the game. Each person talks to the person in front of him/her until he/she must move. The person at the end of one line goes to the end of the other line. This method makes it possible to meet new people. Thus, students will learn more about each other. You can make shifts every next topic or set a limit. For example, the pair should discuss 5 topics and afterward move to change partners. Here are some interesting topics to discuss:

  • Where would you like to travel?
  • What motto do you try to follow?
  • What is your favorite movie?
  • What music do you like?
  • What is your favorite hobby?
  • Why did you choose this college?
  • What do you like about college life the most?

Take Sides

You can likewise suggest a game, which offers only two options. It’s called “Take Sides.” Create a list of questions with two answers. Students should obligatorily choose one of them. Afterward, you may discuss the answers. Let everyone explain his/her choices. Thus, you’ll learn more about each other, and it will bring you closer. Here are several suggestions:

  • Watermelon or banana?
  • Sweat or bitter?
  • Short trips every weekend or a journey around the world for three months?
  • Partying or hiking?
  • Listen or speak?
  • Rock or pop?
  • Morning or night?
  • Superman or Batman?
  • Robocop or Terminator?
  • Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings?
  • Los Angeles or New York?
  • Liberal or conservative?
  • American football or ice hockey?

My Most Embarrassing Moment

You can likewise tell each other about the most embarrassing moments. It’s important to be honest and don’t imagine a story that never took place. All the participants should agree on this term. Commonly, it is a very entertaining activity. Students tell funny stories they’ve been through. It commonly makes them closer.

These activities for college students are very simple to follow. They are really entertaining. Mind that we have mentioned only 5 of them. However, you can try a hundred activities more. Use our examples to have fun and relax. They may inspire you and your friends to look for other entertaining activities.

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