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. As vulnerable gay and transgender youth, they’ve been shot, stabbed, raped, and beaten into a coma. Documentary filmmakers Toby Oppenheimer and Dana Flor (HBO’s The Nine Lives of Marion Barry) craft a uniquely intimate and ultimately hopeful portrait of three members of a DC gang composed of previously victimized and bullied youth. Led by an ex-convict named Mo, and with rap sheets riddled with everything from assault to armed robbery to drug-dealing, the members of Check It have an unbreakable bond of friendship and loyalty, working together to create their own clothing label, put on fashion shows, and work stints as runway models. But breaking the cycle of poverty and violence they’ve grown up in is a daunting task.
Panel discussion with Tiq Milan, writer and advocate; Lillian Rivera, Director of Advocacy & Capacity Building at Hetrick-Martin Institute; and Lavender, Youth Representative Hetrick-Martin Institute and visual artist; moderated by Darnell Moore.