“Life is poetry.” Remembering slain spoken-word artist Will “Da Real One” Bell.
As North Miami police look for a break in the Sunday morning shooting death of Will “Da Real One” Bell, South Florida’s spoken-word community mourns the loss of its most famous and beloved figures — its unofficial laureate.
A poetry slam champion who got his big break on HBO’s “Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam”, Bell appeared on albums by rappers like Pit Bull and and Rick Ross. He was known in Miami as an advocate for abused women and a generous supporter of other poets, especially at his North Miami club, the Literary Cafe and Poetry Lounge.
In what police are terming an “assassination,” Bell, 47, was confronted by a gunman as he closed up the Literary Cafe, according to the Miami Herald. Bell was shot “multiple times” in front of witnesses who had just left the lounge. The gunman “coolly” walked to a waiting car and drove off with another man, witnesses say.
Police are at a loss for a possible motive to the murder, saying Tuesday they “do not believe Bell was involved in anything that caused his death” — by which they apparently mean drugs or gang activity. Bell had recently fallen into debt, police said, as he struggled to keep open the cafe he first established in 2003.
Friends, fans and fellow poets remember Bell’s generosity and support in blogs, in comments to the Herald, and at a Facebook tribute page, where Richard Roberts III tells a typical story:
Struggling to leave the thug life behind, Roberts turned to writing, but had no confidence in his work. Introduced to Bell, he asked if what he was writing was poetry. “He said life was poetry, and put [me] on the stage,” Roberts writes on Facebook. “He mentored me as a poet and a man.To make a long story short Will and poetry changed my life.”
Bell’s life was saved by poetry, too. He came out of northwest Miami’s Edison Court projects,where he was arrested for cocaine trafficking in 1989. During a 14-month stint in prison he found writing and, according to the Herald, friends say he left street life for good.
At six-feet-five, Bell was a commanding presence on stage, delivering one of his signature spoken-word pieces, such as “I Can’t Write About.” As sometimes happens with talented spoken-word artists, this is a poem that bears reading on the page — though, with its smooth rhythms and building momentum, quoting a line or two doesn’t do it justice. You can read the whole poem at blackonblackrhyme.com.
“What made him different is the element that he came out of, and what he made of his misfortunes,” Miami poet Adonnis Parker told the Herald. “He turned his unfortunate events into gold. The stuff he said, everybody was electrified every time he opened his mouth because you could relate to it.’’