A forthcoming feature-length documentary goes inside what might be the only all gay and trans gang in the U.S., profiling members of the Check It as the young residents of Washington, D.C., work to steer themselves out of gang life and into entrepreneurship.
Check It follows the lives of five close friends, all between the ages of 14 and 22, some of whom wear lipstick, mascara, and stilettos while also toting knives, brass knuckles, and mace in their stylish Louis Vuitton bags. The Check It is the only documented and known gay and trans gang in America, or maybe even in the world, according to the film's trailer.
Steve Buscemi, one of the film's producers, says of the Check It gang, "They've had to band together out of necessity, and instead of running away from the dangers that they face daily, they decided to fight back."
All images courtesy Check It
The all-black gang hails from Trinidad, one of D.C.'s most violent neighborhoods, and formed in 2005 as a response to the stabbings, shootings, and homophobic bullying its members experienced starting as early as their freshman year of high school.
Check It the documentary has been three years in the making, and is directed by Toby Oppenheimer and Dana Flor, who also directed The Nine Lives of Marion Barry for HBO. The producers are hoping to fund final production costs through an Indiegogo campaign, with a portion of the funds raised going directly to members of the Check It to purchase sewing machines and fabric for the clothing line they are desigining.
"These are kids with a lot of challenges," said producer Flor in the Indiegogo campaign pitch. "They've been bullied, they've been kicked out of school, and they've been disowned by some of their families. They've created their own family."
"A lot of us are homeless, don't have anywhere to be and don't have anyone to count on," says one gang member. Another member proclaims, "But I'm a strong survivor!"
"If no one was going to stand up for us, we are going to stand up for ourselves," says another member of the Check It.
Members of the Check It have criminal records with charges related to assault, armed robbery, and drug dealing, but they are trying to channel their energy into a different field: fashion. The gang was initially formed as a way for its members to protect one another, but the Check It is now in the process of creating its own clothing label and putting on fashion shows, with its members working as runway models. The new entreprenurial project seems to be empowering the young people, as one member reveals in the trailer: "It's time to start actually living our lives the way we want it to be."
Many of the young people in Check It are hopeful that their new project will help them raise themselves out of the poverty that surrounds them -- and out of gang life.
Watch the trailer for Check It below: