A Washington Mystics player promised a media “blackout” until Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and a D.C. Council member adequately respond to an episode of gun violence this week at a Southeast elementary school.
In a message she posted to Instagram after visiting Hendley Elementary in Ward 8, starting guard Natasha Cloud said a school event was canceled this week after a bullet broke a front window. Cloud had been at the school to talk with students.
“Our kids can’t even feel safe to go to school right now,” she said on social media. “What are we doing? We’ve got to do better for our youth.”
In a message to Bowser (D) and council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8), Cloud said she would use her “media privileges as a blackout” if she did not receive a response by Friday morning “with a solution or a sit-down for a solution.”
Cloud followed through on her promise to stage a media blackout to draw attention to the issue and did not discuss basketball Friday before the Mystics’ home loss to Seattle. Cloud gave one statement after the game, and no other players answered questions.
“It directly affected me yesterday,” Cloud said before the game. “Being in [the school], seeing the kids, hearing them talk about it like it’s just something that happens — this shouldn’t be something that happens. Our kids need to be in a safe environment when they’re going to learn. . . . If they can’t go to school, we’re setting them up for failure at a young age.
“I will only discuss this topic until it is fixed,” she said.
Bowser’s office addressed Cloud’s concerns in a statement.
“Mayor Bowser went to the community on Thursday evening to meet with community leaders, their MPD Captain and outreach staff to discuss their concerns and talk about recent incidents. That dialogue will continue as we work to end the senseless violence that has been fueled by the unfortunate presence of too many illegal guns.”
Cloud met with the rest of her team and Coach-General Manager Mike Thibault on Friday morning to talk about her plans for a media blackout and “get on the same page.” Thibault has encouraged his players to speak out on issues that are important to them and has helped the team cultivate a culture of social activism. Last week he organized a team visit to the Supreme Court.
When the Mystics moved to their new arena in Southeast, Thibault said, the team felt even more compelled to get involved.
“That was clear — that we’re not just going to make a statement and not do anything,” Thibault said. “We’re going to be involved with schools, we’re going to be involved with Ward 8, and we’re going to try to make a positive impact, whether it’s bringing kids to clinics, bringing kids to games, letting them interact with our players — because that’s our best platform to help.”
In a Twitter message, the Mystics said the organization was “proud that our players are invested in the community and are committed to helping us be a unifier in Ward 8.”
“The events of the past month are very upsetting and we respect the right of our players to speak out in a manner that promotes positive dialogue,” the message continued. “Together, we aspire to work with civil leaders and elected officials to find ways to better the communities where we play.”
White said he was at a community meeting with other city leaders to address violence in the ward when Cloud called on him to act.
White, who attended Hendley as a child, said he was at the school earlier in the day delivering free bikes and books ahead of summer. He said he was at a hospital until 2 a.m. Friday visiting a friend who was shot earlier in the night.
“She’s asking me what I am going to do, and I am telling her that for 17 years I have been addressing the issue of violence of the community,” White said. “She has a good heart, but we need people involved, not just on social media. I have been on the front line doing the work.”
White said Friday morning that he had not responded to Cloud about scheduling a meeting with her but invited her on social media to a summer block party in the afternoon in Southeast as part of a city peace and anti-violence tour.
Students and teachers were preparing for a movie night co-hosted with D.C. police Wednesday when the bullet broke the window at Hendley, in the 400 block of Chesapeake Street SE. Officers were in the school at the time of the shooting.
A police report indicates police responded at about 4:20 p.m. to the report of gunshots and found bullet fragments in the front of the school. No one was injured, and no arrests had been made.
Sarah Osborne, a fourth-grade teacher at Hendley, said a teacher was standing by the window when the shots were fired.
“Everyone could hear the sounds,” Osborne said. “It’s very traumatizing for our students who have gone through this before. . . . It’s very hard for students and adults to process.”
The shooting followed another that broke a window at Hendley on May 29, when police responded after a ShotSpotter detected the sound of gunfire, according to a police report.
Seven shell casings were found on the block, the report said, and a broken window at the school was found the next day.