Capital Checkers is one of those inconspicuous places in D.C. that exists right under your nose. It's in an old dilapidated building in the Shaw neighborhood that's surrounded by new growth that's encroaching from every direction. On the one hand, you've got the remnants of past legacies; public housing, Howard University, and a black church right across the street. On the other hand you've got condos popping up in all directions, little Ethiopia starting at 9th and Sst. NW, and the general foot traffic that the Ust. corridor brings in general. Still, if you were to walk by Capital Checkers, you would never think that the facility is still in use, and that men gather there to play checkers.
What caught my attention was the big mural on the side of the building of a kid playing checkers. I thought that it was just a building that was certainly flagged for demolition to make way for a group of newly built row-houses in the classic D.C. motif; tall, narrow houses with the cone-shaped roof in the front. After spending a few hours in the street with my camera one evening, I passed by Capital Checkers to find the door open, but the grill locked. I peeked in and made a note to return the following day. I returned and was treated to a couple whoopings in checkers, great conversation, and lesson in the history of the club. Turns out that I wasn't the first outsider to take an interest in this Capital Checkers. Peggy Flemming already wrote a book and filmed a short documentary of the club.
Check it out here: http://vimeo.com/9742450 .