D.C.’s Former All-LGBTQ Gang Seeks to Pay It Forward
The homegrown documentary “Check It” is now being screened at various festivals worldwide, including recent local appearances in the March Annapolis Film Festival and April D.C. International Film Festival.
The story follows the first known all-LGBTQ gang, a somewhat violent retaliatory group against anti-gay bullying. It all began when several harassed ninth-grade students banded together in 2005 to fight stereotypes and their homophobic persecutors.
They called their tribe the Check It and membership eventually swelled to more than 200 young people.
The gang effectively rose to the defense of threatened LGBTQ youth but also participated in petty crime and robbery in D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood.
Then, starting with T-shirt sales and fashion shows, some sartorially-talented members led the group to divest from crime and start their own clothing start-up, Check It Enterprises LLC, which obtained a storefront in Anacostia. Now that the young adults are trying to get their act together, they’re receiving help from a number of mentors such as ex-convict Ron “Mo” Moten.
The documentary was directed by Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer — both known for “The Nine Lives of Marion Barry” — and received support from famed Hollywood actor Steve Buscemi and a $60,000 crowdfunStding campaign.
It is a story of hope and transformation that also serves as evidence of the violence, poverty, homelessness, exploitation and turmoil that many youth experience in the nation’s capital. In interviews and at panels following these screenings, Check It members have repeatedly cited the dearth of organizations meeting the specific needs of Black LGBTQ youth.
The group aims to fill that gap by expanding its business to become a social enterprise. It has again turned to crowdfunding. According to a GoFundMe page seeking $15,000, Check It Enterprises plans to renovate its shop and purchase equipment to “help provide services to our peers as well as providing space for other young entrepreneurs who need the same opportunity but have limited resources.”