This is an incredible documentary covering the Check It, an African-American LGBTQ youth gang in Washington D.C., and features many of its members and their supporters. The gang began because some 9th graders who were seen as gay were being targeted for violence. Being beat up most places they went, it became dangerous to be alone. Eventually the Check It gang grew to more than 200 members. Together, the Check It became the second family its members needed, a place to belong, be protected by, and earn income with.
The documentary flows as it follows the lives of a few of Check Its leaders. Most of these youth call themselves gay, however, one could also call them AMAB, transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, or queer. As we see what their lives are like there’s some important interviews from cisgender and heterosexual folx. We learn that the African-American LGBTQ community in D.C. generally calls all gender and sexual minorities “gay”. It seems to be something that is not accepted, is ridiculed, and Cis/Het street justice is rampant. These youth come from broken families due to divorce or imprisonment, poverty, histories of violence, drug culture and sex work as a means of survival. Check It turns to each other when no others can help as they do sex work to make ends meet.
The film also covers some supporters from the local D.C. area. A police officer specializing in gangs, a boxing gym owner, a fashion industry worker, and a parent or two. We watch as these folx with huge hearts try to turn these youth around for the better. Teaching Check It, which is mostly comprised of high school drop-outs or forced-outs, how to make money, legally, doing things they’re passionate about like boxing and fashion. I was impressed by the grass roots activism that brought six of these youth to Fashion Week in New York City and some boxing tournaments. It took a lot of work, but the mentors taught them self-confidence, responsibility, teamwork, professionalism, and gave them hope. When you’re sixteen and make a living pleasuring strange men in their cars, it seemed clear, that hope quickly fades. It took a lot of work, but the mentors taught them self-confidence, responsibility, teamwork, professionalism, and gave them hope.
The main lesson I witnessed in this film is how we can use our sets of privilege, no matter how small or large, to help each other. Our children and youth are in danger. We can help them in many ways. In this film we see how a fashion industry worker helped Check It to make their own clothing line. Progress. Maybe other youth can grow up making and selling T-shirts instead of doing sex work. Maybe they’ll go on to design their own clothing lines, write their own books, be interviewed on TV? Maybe you can step in and teach one of our children and youth that somehow, they matter, too. If you’re a trans, non-binary, or gender non-conforming child or youth reading this I want you to know you are loved and are not alone.
Check It can be found on Hulu
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