First there was the Aug. 19 dedication of the reconstructed state-of-the-art Dunbar High School, the nation’s oldest black public high school, which has a proud legacy of producing an unparalleled number of black achievers. Then there was last Saturday’s commemoration of the historic 1963 March on Washington, followed by Wednesday’s “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony and President Obama’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
Those events, however, weren’t all that took place during the celebrations.
Two days before the first day of class at the new Dunbar, thieves smashed three windows in the $122 million school and stole three laptops.
That burglary is likely to be solved. The thieves were captured on video, they left fingerprints and the stolen computers were equipped with tracking devices. No scholars they.
But that’s not the point.
Standing outside the school on opening day, a disappointed Dunbar senior, Juwan Weal, told WUSA-TV, “I think it’s very disrespectful.”
The burglary was worse than that.
The city relied upon trust in the community when it invested heavily in the new Dunbar. The break-in betrayed that trust.
Similar acts of treachery occurred during the 50th-anniversary ceremonies on the Mall.
As thousands gathered to commemorate the 1963 march and to mobilize for action on jobs, voting rights and criminal justice, the following events — selected from the D.C. Police Department’s Twitter feed — occurred between last Saturday’s “Realize the Dream” march and Monday’s Global Freedom Festival on the Mall:
Saturday, Aug. 24, date of the procession to the Lincoln Memorial:
●Robbery in the 1100 block of H Street NE. Lookout for a black male, age 20 to 30, wearing all white.
●Stabbing in the 2900 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. Lookout for two black males: One wearing a red shirt, one in a white shirt.
●Holdup with a gun in the 4900 block of Third Street NW. Lookout for a black male, age 19 to 20, wearing a red shirt, black jeans and a black baseball hat.
●Robbery at 30th Street and Alabama Avenue SE. Lookout for a black male in a black shirt and army pants.
On Sunday, Aug. 25: word of God on the Mall; guns in the community.
●Robbery with a gun at 15th and E streets NE. Lookout for two black males. Suspect No. 1 has long dreads, wearing dark shorts. Suspect No. 2 has a short haircut.
●Robbery with a handgun, 4200 block of Barnaby Road SE. Lookout for a black male in a black hoodie and black mask.
●Robbery with a handgun, 2100 block of Benning Road SE. Lookout for a black male, age 25 to 35, with short hair in a black and white shirt.
●Robbery with a gun, 2100 block of First Street NW. Lookout for a black male in a white tank top and black pants.
Monday, Aug. 26:
●Robbery with a gun in the 4600 block of Livingston Road SE. Lookout for two black males, ages 20 to 25.
●Robbery in the 1800 block of Savannah Street SE. Lookout for two black males, ages 20 to 30s, dreadlocks, wearing black shirts and blue jeans. Armed with a handgun.
And on Wednesday afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial, when President Obama summoned the throng of hopefuls to have courage — “when we turn not from each other, or on each other, but toward one another, and we find that we do not walk alone. That’s where courage comes from” — the police tweeted about a robbery at Minnesota Avenue and Ridge Road SE. Lookout for two black males, ages teens to 20s, one in a yellow shirt and blue jeans, one in a green shirt and blue jeans.
The Dunbar legacy; Dr. King’s powerful cry for justice, love and reconciliation; Obama’s call to march on for change — those thoughts were far from the minds of too many young men in our city.
As we consider where we go from here, those young men should be on our minds.
We claim King as ours. They are ours, too.
King admonished us 50 years ago: “We must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.”
The Dunbar break-in, the shootings, stabbings, robberies and assaults are wrongful deeds. The lawbreakers must be caught and held accountable.
Wrongful deeds? So, too, is the failure, as Obama put it, to raise boys right. So, too, the absence of a loving and caring adult in a child’s life, the dad who’s deliberately not around, the mom who puts herself first, the community that puts its kids down.
Where do we go from here? Indeed.
Read more from Colbert I. King’s archive.