Check It Enterprises, a business venture of the Check Its, a former gang of LGBTQ individuals who had banned together for support and protection, has opened the doors to its new Southeast D.C. facility.
On Tuesday, June 20, the group held a grand opening of the center, where they design and sell clothing and other apparel. The ceremony featured remarks from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Congressman Danny Davis (D-Ill.), and Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8).
The facility’s opening marks the end of an arc that took those in the street gang, who, a couple of years ago, had become infamous for their antics in the Chinatown neighborhood. After teaming up with former Peaceaholics founder Ron Moten, and earning support from local community groups, including the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative and the Getrude Stein Democratic Club, the Check Its began planning for their entry into the world of entrepreneurship. Through various fundraisers, including a fashion runway show, they began amassing the capital needed to open the new center.
Dominic Smith, the secretary at Check It Enterprises, says that, in addition to their clothing line, the Check Its will be giving back to the community by offering sex education and dance classes to other youth — resources that were not made readily available to the Check Its when they were growing up.
“I feel proud of myself and my friends. I feel this is an opportunity for us to give back to the community, and to teach other kids about doing the right thing and having hope,” Smith says. “I feel like good things will come from it.”
Erica Briscoe, another Check It employee, says that the Check Its will offer classes on sewing and silk screening — skills that are essential to developing a clothing line — to help others refine their craft. The facility will also serve as a resource center for youth from throughout the city, linking them with counseling and other mental health or emotional support services as needed.
“I grew up thinking I would never be nothing in life, or do anything because of the poverty we were living in, so this is just tremendous for me to have something that I never thought I would ever do,” Briscoe says, echoing the sentiment voiced of many of her fellow Check Its. “I feel like this is a new opportunity for me to be successful in life, and I’m thankful for it.”