We're offering thoughts n feelings in memory of KevinMichael Key, a guiding light in the Skid Row community who passed away last Wednesday. KevinMichael constantly strove to make Skid Row a more healthy, more community-oriented, and more equitable place.
Born on January 20, 1950 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, KevinMichael began a family, received his law degree, and launched a career in New York City. But in 1983, when a death in the family meant his mother would be alone in LA, he relocated here to be near to her and prioritize her life and health.
Though Los Angeles brought him to family, it also brought him closer to his addiction. By the late 1990's, he was alone, sleeping on the streets, and in and out of treatments that weren't working. Then he found Skid Row.
Many people on the outside assume Skid Row is a place of mere despair, desperation, and hopelessness. Kevin Michael strongly disagreed. Thanks to the density of services and people going through similar life renewal, he found a community that inspired him to get sober in 2001 which he stayed for the remainder of his life. Skid Row became a natural place for Kevin Michael to pay it forward, helping others find pathways to sobriety too and eventually leading him to work work at UCEPP - the United Coalition East Prevention Program.
Kevin Michael would frequently say, "Skid Row saved my life." But through his work, he saved lots of lives in the Skid Row community - through sobriety, through healing, and through political action. Working alongside LACAN, performing with LA Poverty Department, and through many other local initiatives, Kevin Michael taught others how to advocate on their own behalf and give more people in Skid Row a seat at the table.
May Kevin Michael's life continue to inspire us to offer space to those who need justice and support in our community. May we treat all our neighbors with love and respect, and remember that leaving people behind in the name of progress is no progress at all.
The Skid Row community has organized a memorial gathering for Kevin Michael Key this Saturday July 30 11AM at Gladys Park. All are welcome.