Last month, Robert Lopez lost a member of his crew -- a brother, practically -- to a bullet, yet, now more than ever, he sees reason to dance. Kelvin Mitchell, 19, was killed June 28 in a west Phoenix shooting, and this weekend, Lopez (known on the scene as "Chino") hosts a hip-hop event in Mitchell's honor, donating all proceeds to Mitchell's family.
Lopez (above right), a member of the Valley's Nebellen Dance Company, befriended Mitchell (above left) in the mid-'90s, when the shy preteen joined Lopez's breaking class at the Boys and Girls Club. The two later toured with the Original AFA (Arizona Floor Assassinz) and the Soul Squad, a Christian crew.
"When we'd be on tour, we wouldn't get paid much," Lopez says, "but Kelvin would give it all to his mom," a single mother raising six kids. "He was 15, 16, supporting his mom for a while."
Though Mitchell had no formal training, "he was an awesome dancer," Lopez remembers. "Tremendous skills."
Local acts have stepped up to donate their talents to the memorial event; the lineup includes moves by Furious Styles Crew and the Original AFA, an exhibition battle pitting Mellow Drama vs. Sour Patch Reborn, and three-on-three battles "for braggin' rights." DJs Cre, Conrad, and Johnny C will take to the tables, with Innergate, The Rep, and Avenue of the Arts staging MC performances.
To bring some perspective to the party, Lopez will roll a slide show in his fallen friend's memory. Many of Mitchell's friends and neighbors were caught up in the gang life, Lopez says, "but he was always trying to do good."
"There's so much negativity surrounding everything that happened," Lopez adds. "I just want everyone to see the Kelvin that I knew."