By Kamilah Tom, Howard University News Service
Three former gang members are using their pasts to provide a safe place for the youth who are facing challenges familiar to them. “Check It,” the United States’ only documented black gang for members of the LGBTQ Community now has an incorporated business, known as “Check It Enterprises.”
“Our main priority is to reach the youth because we remember how we were back then,” said 27-year-old Star Bennett, co-founder of “Check It Enterprises” and former leader of “Check It Gang.” “Some are still out there doing their thing, and we want to have a program in our office for the youth.”
The Check It Gang was founded 12 years ago when being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender was not widely accepted. There were over 200 members who were apart of the gang to create a family and protect each other from the assaults they experienced in and out of school.
The co-founders of Check It Enterprises want their business to be a catalyst for change amongst youth who are walking the same path they once took. They want to be able to provide a center where the kids can come to look for a job or a place where they can feel comfortable to talk.
Five years ago, community activist and youth advocate Ronald Moten decided to work with members of Check It when no one else in the community would work with them. “Star came to me for help. She was a leader committed to change and helping others,” said Moten. It was then that the transformation from Check It Gang grew into Check It Enterprises.
Although Moten does not identify as a member of the LGBTQ community, he faced hardships as a youth while growing up in the inner city of Washington, D.C. “It was the same way with me during my transformation. All I needed was direction and opportunity and I could do the rest,” said Moten. Despite naysayers he provided the now Check It Enterprises with the same guidance, wisdom and opportunity that was extended to him.
Moten and his co-founders use outreach as a way to help the youth, specifically those who are a part of the LGBTQ community. Some days, members go to Gallery Place and Chinatown, an area with a strong Check It presence, to create an open line of communication between themselves and the people they are hoping to mentor and assist.
“We went to Gallery to talk to them and put them on right path to prevent them from going the wrong way like we did,” said Bennett.
Chaheed Hines, 20, joined the Baby Check It, a group for younger members of the gang, around the age of 13 because of the negative stigma that came with being gay in D.C., but then he met Erica Briscoe, another co-founder of Check It Enterprises.
“Erica stuck with me through thick and thin, especially during the times I was doing bad things and doing what I wanted,” said Hines. “She encouraged me to pursue my goals. I consider Check It Enterprises family.”
In addition to providing a program for youth, Check It Enterprises is a clothing store that sells clothing with their brand. “If anyone is to say anything about Check It, it’ll be positive,” said Bennett.