A woman hurled a brick through the double-pane window of an LGBTQ community center in Anacostia this week in an incident D.C. police are investigating as a suspected hate crime.
The attack left a hole in the facade of Check It Enterprises and a crack in the door. It also rattled those who work and gather inside — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth who have grown to see the community center as a safe haven where they can escape violence and hate.
“Bad things happen to young people in this city,” said Ronald Moten, a youth mentor who has worked with Check It for about six years. “They’re always worried about their safety when they’re out there, but when they come here they feel safe. This is their safe haven.”
It’s an organization that exists on the fringes of two worlds: Washington’s LGBTQ community has been slow to embrace Check It, members, Moten said, because of “classist attitudes,” and neighborhoods where many of its members live still harbor homophobic attitudes that make them feel unsafe.
“D.C. still has a lot of violence and hate crimes directed at the LGBTQ community, and there’s a lot of work to be done,” Moten said. “Even within the gay community, there’s work to be done.”
Security cameras in and around the building captured footage of a woman throwing the brick. She targeted the front door at about 6:07 a.m. Tuesday, then moved to the front window.
After fracturing the first pane of glass, the footage shows, the woman threw the brick again and shattered the second pane.
The store was littered with shards of glass — Check It markets clothing — as Moten arrived that morning about 6:45 a.m. after receiving a call from a neighbor. Moten said the neighbor told him and other Check It volunteers that he heard the woman scream anti-gay slurs as she vandalized the storefront.
Police updated an initial report to indicate the crime may have been motivated by hate. “Suspected hate crime,” the police report says. “Anti-gay.”
The investigation continues.
Although members of the organization felt shaken by the attack, few were surprised that hatred may have found its way to Check It’s front door.
“It makes you remember where you’re at, reminds you not to get too comfortable,” Moten said. “We’ve had some of our kids attacked on Metro buses on their way here, but once they get inside this building, it’s been a safe haven.
“When things like this happen, it makes you think twice,” he said.
Check It Enterprises, on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast Washington, was founded by a group that had been members of the Check It street gang — a crew of teenagers in the Trinidad neighborhood of Northeast Washington who banded together for support and protection in the early 2000s.
Members of the group reformed to open Check It Enterprises, a community hub combined with the business that focuses on creating and marketing clothing.
Not wanting to drive up insurance premiums after the vandalism, the community center turned to the Internet to raise funds to fix the damage. It took Check It three days to surpass its goal of $2,500.
Most of the donations came from community members with ties to the organization, Moten said.
“This is the miracle of Check It — most of the supporters of Check It are not gay,” Moten said. “They’re members of our community who look at our kids as children who need support to change their life around. They don’t see the gay part.”
Several events this weekend will go on as planned, Moten said, despite the boarded-up “black eye” on the face of the store.