Bud Billiken 2021: Chicago dance troupe to perform in honor of slain founder

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Members of a Chicago dance troupe are practicing for their performance at this weekend's Bud Billiken Parade in honor of their instructor who was the victim of deadly gun violence.

LaToya Smith is the new CEO of Ultimate Threat Dance Organization after her brother Verndell Smith was shot and killed getting coffee down the street before practice in May.

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The 32-year-old had only partial hearing in one ear and taught himself how to dance by feeling the rhythm. He started the organization 11 years ago because he loved to dance and he wanted give young people a positive way to express themselves.

"We have our good days, we have our bad days," Smith said. "But the most important part is that we want to keep dancing. We want to honor his legacy and continue."

The troupe will perform in the Bud Billiken Parade celebration this weekend to honor Smith, calling it V's Angels.

"They are going to do a special piece with a dedication to him for creating this and being who he was to all of us," Smith said.

"When I was so young, I really didn't know what I wanted to do in life and I got here and V gave me a purpose," dancer Tylor Eatman said.

"We had good times and bad times," Markell Means added. "He would take us on rides and talk with us. He always took care of us like we were his nephews and sons."

"It's heartbreaking," Smith said. "In the beginning, I was confident they would find out who did it, but there are still so many unanswered questions."

Chicago police said the case is still open no new leads and no suspect. The family urges anyone with information to call police.
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