Miami’s budding world of poetry and spoken-word performance lost a defining voice early Sunday after gunmen shot and killed local poet Will “Da Real One’’ Bell outside the North Miami cafe where he had plied his trade for years and given a venue to countless other wordsmiths.
Bell, 47, whose performances have been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, had just closed his business, the Literary Cafe and Poetry Lounge on 933 NE 125th Street, at about 12:40 a.m. and was walking to his car nearby when another car occupied by at least two men pulled up beside him, said Lt. Neal Cuevas of the North Miami Police Department.
A gunman leapt out from the passenger seat and fired multiple times at Bell, who died on the scene, Cuevas said. The men then fled in the car, but did not take any of Bell’s possessions, which included cash and jewelry.
“We don’t have a motive right now,’’ Cuevas said.
Several witnesses, who had been inside The Literary Cafe earlier that night, offered police differing descriptions of the suspects’ car color as light and dark, with a spoiler on the rear.
Bell will be missed in South Florida’s poetry and spoken-word performance scene, where he loomed as a local laureate, having achieved national recognition with performances on Def Poetry Jam and on albums by artists such as Miami’s Pit Bull, and hosting open-mic nights at his Literary Cafe and other venues.
Standing nearly 6-feet-5, Bell cast an imposing presence on stage, where he delivered prose honed from a life of poverty, fatherlessness, crime and prison — before finding redemption through words.
Shawn Elliot, a musician and poet who befriended Bell at a Miami reading in 2006, said Bell possessed a commanding stage presence and a big heart to match.
“Just his voice alone was very demanding,’’ Elliot said. “Like when he spoke, people paid attention. He just had that tone in his voice... It cut the room, and you would pay attention.’’
Bell would frequently open for lesser-known poets at local readings as a way to cultivate talent, and volunteered his time mentoring disadvantaged children, Elliot said.
Addonis Parker, a Miami poet and artist, recalled the power of Bell’s words emanated from his personal experiences that informed his poetry.
“What made him different is the element that he came out of, and what he made of his misfortunes. He turned his unfortunate events into gold,’’ Parker said. “The stuff he said, everybody was electrified every time he opened his mouth because you could relate to it.’’
Many who knew Bell where heartbroken. One fan started a Facebook fan page in his honor and by late Sunday afternoon had more than 700 members.
Public tributes for Bell were already being planned. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Bell grew up in the Edison Court Projects on Northwest Third Avenue and 62nd Street, where his single mother moved the family shortly after Bell’s father left them.
In 1989, Bell was arrested for armed cocaine trafficking in his neighborhood. He was convicted, and sentenced to 14 months in prison.
Behind bars, he began writing love letters to an imaginary woman waiting for him “on the outside.’’
After showing his letters to a fellow prisoner, who encouraged his prose, Bell and the prisoner began a business ghost writing loves letters for other inmates in exchange for commissary items.
When he left prison in 1990, Bell left poetry behind. It took another decade before the muse struck Bell once again at an open mic poetry reading.
After signing up in 2001 for Lip, Tongue & Ear, a weekly, open-mic poetry competition for poets, Bell was hooked.
He won successive contests, eventually earning the title of Lip Tongue & Ear’s Poet Laureate of Miami-Dade in April 2003, a designation he held for a year.
It didn’t take long for Bell to launch a career in poetry with CDs, and performance and promotion fees. His big break came in 2004, when he performed on Def Poetry Jam.
Bell opened the Literary Cafe in summer 2003, with a vision of giving poets a place to perform their art.
Police ask that anyone with information on this crime contact the North Miami Police Department 305-891-8111 or Crimestoppers at 305-371-TIPS.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/05/29/2241101/popular-north-miami-poet-cafe.html#ixzz1NnN6kpld