At first glance, they seem unlikely gang-bangers. Some of the boys wear lipstick and mascara, some stilettos. They carry Louis Vuitton bags – but they also carry knives, brass knuckles and mace. They’re known on the streets as the Check It – an African-American gang struggling to survive in some of the most violent neighborhoods of Washington DC. As vulnerable gay and transgender youth, they’ve been shot, stabbed, and raped. Once victims, they’ve now turned the tables, and they’re fighting back. Started in 2005 by a group of bullied 9th graders, today these 14-22-year-old gang members all have long rap sheets riddled with various street crimes and many have done time in jail.
CHECK IT is an intimate portrait of four childhood friends as they claw their way out of gang life through an unlikely avenue: fashion. Led by an ex-convict named Mo, the Check It members are now creating their own clothing label, putting on fashion shows, and working stints as runway models. Breaking the cycle of poverty and violence they’ve grown up in is a daunting task, however – when they’re not taking small steps forward on the catwalk, they too often take massive steps backwards.
Life for the Check It can be brutal, but it’s also one full of hope and an indomitable resiliency. At its heart, CHECK IT explores the undying friendship that exists between these kids: an unbreakable bond that is tested every day as they fight to stand up for who they are in a community relentlessly trying to beat them down. These kids and their lives are utterly unique, but ultimately their story – and this film – is a universal one about hope and redemption against all odds.
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