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“Life is poetry.” Remembering slain spoken-word artist Will “Da Real One” Bell.

June 1, 2011

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

“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.’’

Poet and musician Shawn Elliott told the Herald that Bell frequently opened at local performances of lesser known artists “as a way to cultivate talent, and volunteered his time mentoring disadvantaged children.”
Poetry benefits to help Bell’s family pay for funeral expenses are being planned, with the first one tonight at 8 p.m. at The Bohemia Room, 3215 NE Second Ave., Miami. Another tribute is scheduled for Thursday, 8 p.m., at Verbal Calligraphy, 2029 Harrison St. Hollywood.
For more information on other events, see the Facebook tribute page, or contact Ingrid B.,, 305-519-1369.
“I love him so much for his inspiration to not just me,”said Brigitte Tuner in an email to the Herald,  “but to so many that loved and respected him, and will continue to do so even in his passing.”
For a full list of summer programs offered by the Florida Center for the Literary Arts, visit the website at
3 Comments leave one →
  1. Candice Simmons permalink
    June 1, 2011 3:14 pm

    Very very sad.

  2. June 1, 2011 8:38 pm

    Another heartbreaking slaughter for one who should have had miles to go before he slept. The Great Society of Guns strikes again. It never ends.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      June 1, 2011 11:47 pm

      Sad, indeed, and like the death of Jam Master Jay, shot outside his recording studio in 2002, utterly senseless. Bell’s life stands as a symbol of the redemptive power of poetry in particular and literature in general.

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