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Our dear friend and collaborator and Key LAPD staff member KevinMichael Key has passed on.  He died on Wednesday, July 19, 2017, surrounded by his loving children, brother, grandchildren and friends.

Kevin is a big and loving presence in the Skid Row community, working as an advocate with UCEPP (United Coalition East Prevention Project), as a community liaison for the diabetes program at JWCH Community Clinic and an important member of Critical Resistance.  He’d also worked with LA Community Action Network (LA CAN) and been a 2 term member of the Downtown Neighborhood Council.  He was one of the community leaders in the campaign to defeat a liquor license in the New Genesis Hotel, and that organizing victory became the subject of LAPD’s 2016 production “What Fuels Development?”


Through his many involvements Kevin was an amazing effective connector in the community, coolly ambling down the street he operated at a speed faster than internet–and louder.  He’d boom out a shout to somebody across the street and get things done.  Or as he’d say, “when everyone’s out there is pumpin’ and fakin’, KevinMichael is smoken’ and shaken”.  Kevin loved Skid Row cause it was the “New York part of LA”.  A former public defender Kevin was at ease approaching and if necessary getting in the face of people in suits, but his main love was striking up a conversation with anyone on any street in Skid Row.   Of course, he loved people wherever he was.  LAPD was in El Alto Bolivia, about to do “Agentes y Activos” our Spanish language show about the futility of the war on drugs.  El Alto is a shanty town of over a million people that hovers over the city of La Paz.  Before the show, Kevin went out in to the plaza, and with super limited Spanish approached families, adults and children, giving them fliers and a big smile.  “Agentes y Activos, teatro, gratis, aqui en quince minutos”.  Fearlessness enabled by love.  When we played the same show in a prison, afterwards one of the inmates referred to him as “the big Cubano”,  because of his accent.  We all felt this was a big coup—that his accent was recognizable as anything in particular, as he’d learned his lines phonetically.

Kevin was proud to say, “Skid Row saved my life.  I got clean and sober on Skid Row.”  And he helped a lot of people on the road to recovery.  Never preachy, but always warm, disarming and funny, Kevin was able to convince people that they could do better for themselves, get out from under their pain.  We were reading an article from the New York Times claiming that Del Rey Beach was a big location for recovery, because there are all sorts of expensive programs there and people come there, go through the programs and then stay in the community.  We laughed and decided that’s nothing compared to Skid Row.  We decided to make “Biggest Recovery Community Anywhere”, which we did.

When  he received his cancer diagnosis, we went from rehearsal to the sidewalk outside his apartment at the Yankee Hotel for a group hug that lasted 15 minutes —as sirens blared and fire trucks pealed off from Skid Row firehouse #9.  At the end of the hug Kevin looked at us all, Henriëtte, Tone-Tone, Christina and myself and said, “From now on only love.”

We’re carrying your love with us my brother.  We love you Kevin.  Only love.
John Malpede

The funeral service will be held on Thursday, July 27 at 11AM
at the Zion Hill Baptist Church, 7860 10th Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90043

Skid Row will come together to celebrate his life on Saturday, July 29 at Gladys park (corner 6th and Gladys Avenue). > Bring your instrument or something to make mucho noise and wear your favorite hat in honor of our KMK!!
11am: parade through Skid Row. Noon: back at Gladys park and open mic with Skid Row Artists and anyone who wants to speak, sing, testify.


  • Pamela says:


  • Jim McEnteer says:

    KevinMichael Key was a beautiful human being. He taught me a great deal about how to teach without preaching, how to love without conditions, and how to communicate without talking down or up to anybody. He was smart and warm and funny and completely without pretense. In that prison performance in Bolivia he put everyone at ease when he said, “This reminds me of the place where I did some time. And you guys are a lot like the guys I was in with…” You didn’t need to know what all his words meant to understand his message. His smile was a beacon of light across the gaps of culture and language. KevinMichael was one of those people it was always a pleasure to see. I’m sorry to see him pass on so soon but I’m better and happier for having known him. Bless you, brother. And thanks.

  • Diane Clay-Meza says:

    God has taken one of his special angels home with Him. Surely he will be truly missed, but not forgotten. Gone from this earthly realm, only to be seen again by those who truly love, the giver of Love and His Son Jesus.

  • Pamela Walls says:

    Kevin-Michael was truly a pioneer for the well-being of Skidrow. He was ALWAYS on his job on the streets and in Wesley. Everywhere I went, there Kevin-Michael was-hardest working man dowtown. Michael you will truly be missed. When I heard your unmistakeably deep voice, I knew you were on a mission. Skidrow is better to have had you walk it’s streets. Until we meet again my brother.

  • Antonio says:

    So sorry to hear this.
    He was a loving, caring, one man community and a true inspiration to me and I imagine all those he touched.
    A beautiful tribute for a beautiful soul.

  • Charles says:

    Well stated. He was a great blessing to Skid Row. His prescence is irreplaceable. We pray for the elevation of his spirit that he may continue to fight for justice in the hereafter.

  • flo hawkins says:

    Kevin was always kool. He would go out of his way to see to it that I got home.I will always remember him. May he have a word with God concerning the cigarettes he loved to smoke. I had some outrageous habits myself as though I was courting death but only God saved me. Rest in peace Kevin Keys.Your friend Flo.

  • Krouni says:

    yes we love you Kevin, Only Love
    You are forever in my heart & in my thoughts
    I will miss you
    Your Pretty Butterfly Flower Orida

  • Mike D. says:

    Beautiful John! Simply beautiful. Befitting a soldier…….

  • sjoerd says:

    Kevin in Holland working with the PeerGrouP and LAPD was also warm and there you felt the love to from him. I remember him well and he was always an educated man.
    He will stay in our hearts and remember his life. Family and friends stay hugging each other. Here a digital hug from holland. sj

  • Barbara T. Smtih says:

    I am so sad to h ear this. I loved Kevin. He was so welcoming and enthusiastic. An unforgetable hugger. I will try to come down on Sunday, cant tomorrow.

  • Rickey C. Mantley says:

    Dear John, Henriette, et. al

      The passing of Kevin Michael Key is devastating news. I know that he was well loved by many and will be missed by even more. I want to add that he was not only a friend but a towering activist and fighter, almost an unstoppable force.  Here’s my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and the numerous men and women who he nurtured and mentored as a member of the LAPD. And I’m well aware that among the recovery community he is a legendary figure, an unassailable example, the epitome of what it means to recover from the ravages of drugs and alcohol.  John, Henriette, I know how much he meant as a colleague, actor, and shepherd to both of you.  Just continue to celebrate his monumental life, even as we mourn his untimely death.

    Love, Always

  • Jennifer Campbell says:

    Words cannot express the agape that was,well still is bestowed between my brother & myself,God placed him in my life as a brother figure& for thatI say thank youGod forgiving me kmk to enjoy the good times,as well as therough times, hewas & will always be my Brother!!! Sail onKMK!I love you

  • Miguel Campa says:

    Safe journey KMK…I stand in your shadow!

  • Terri Huges says:

    We shared 2 movies together the soloist and lost angels skidrow is my home,Kevin will always be my Castmate and friend from the skidrow community,Great work Kevin,good deeds well done,he shall be sorely missed… He shall remain Captain America and I’m Detroit forever.R.I.P. MY FRIEND.

  • Ibrahim Saba says:

    I can’t wear any hat for you because all my hats are off for you and they would be off in this life of in any other life, anywhere, any universe. You’ve done you’re good share of deeds and that’s how I remember you, the best way. I’m deeply saddened and since it had been hard for me to show up on Saturday and celebrate your life, it was a pleasure to know that my wife, Lilia’s good deed act of sharing food with your friends, our friends was accomplished as well. Love will keep us together, Ibrahim

    • Dear Ibrahim,
      Thank you so much for remembering KevinMichael and taking off your hats! And thanks also for the food your son brought and shared with us at the memorial. The community came together and we created a beautiful event, worthy of the generous and big heated person our friend was. I hope you are well and we’d love to see you again. XXX

  • The dude was straight up AWESOME.