Will Da Real One's murder left many questions

But a tight-knit group is ready to keep preaching the word.

Will Da Real One's murder left many questions
Michael McElroy
Tosca Carroll has incorporated the Literary Café & Poetry Lounge and plans to reopen her dead boyfriend's venue. View a photo slide show of Will Bell's memorial service.

Cool menthol smoke swirled out of Will "Da Real One" Bell's mouth and nostrils as he stood for the last time near the tinted-glass entrance to his joint, the Literary Café & Poetry Lounge. Twenty minutes past midnight on May 29, the 47-year-old poet was near his black Dodge Charger in the parking lot of the shopping center where his spoken-word sanctuary was located. He had just left a message on local comedian Larry Dogg's cell phone, asking if he could send some freestyle rappers, who had stopped by Will's café to perform, to the event his jokester buddy was hosting.

The mood at the café wasn't to the rappers' liking, and Will's patrons didn't particularly embrace the song that one of the lyricists performed. Will didn't want anyone to feel unwelcome the last night he opened his doors. So he sought to resolve any animosity through a diplomatic gesture.

For the past five years, Will had bounced from location to location, spreading his gospel through a silky baritone voice that dropped rapid-fire verses about the grim realities facing African-American men growing up in Miami. He was a dark-skinned pied piper with a handsome smile that belied his imposing, broad-shouldered, six-foot-five frame. He wasn't the kind of man who would broadcast any of the troubles that undoubtedly weighed on his mind that evening.

Two years ago, he had settled into a quaint North Miami storefront at 931-933 NE 125th St., tucked between an accountant's office and the popular bakery Grateful Bread. The venue sated Will's hunger for poetry while supplying a steady diet of his words for other poets and poetry lovers from across the region.

But Memorial Day weekend was it. The time had come to shut down the Literary Café. He had survived more evictions than he could count on his large, smooth hands by cobbling together enough money through donations and borrowed cash to pay the rent late. Only his closest friends knew he had made plans to bounce out of there in April, when he told them he was through. But he couldn't bring himself to lock the doors for good. The reason was the tight-knit group of spoken-word artists that spit poems past midnight at least four times a week at the café.

As he puffed on his last Newport cigarette, he battled with the angst and anticipation of down-sizing. His plan was to continue hosting his popular Saturday-night poetry readings at Mocha Lounge on 738 NE 125th St. He would dedicate more time to touring the country like he did in the old days, when he was riding high from appearances on Russell Simmons's Def Poetry Jam on HBO.

But the café was his baby. He breathed life into it. He kept it going for almost half a decade even though he struggled to pay overhead costs. He certainly wasn't turning a profit. Walking away now should have been a tremendous relief.

Still, the inevitable reality of closing gnawed at Will"Da Real One" Bell on what would be the last night of his life.

View a photo slide show of Will Bell's memorial service.

I run till I find myself standing in the middle of an intersection in Las Vegas and it's September 7, 1996

The day Tupac was followed by an entourage of eyewitnesses but everybody claimed not to see shit

So I run alongside the passenger side and pull Tupac out so Suge Knight is the only motherfucka to get hit

Then I hear that scream again:

You better run, nigga.

So I run

I run till I find myself in L.A. Just in time to push Biggie out of the way of the last gun blast

And I'm lying there with this hot lead in my ass,

And I'm thinking, oh God,

At last, I ain't gotta run no more

I ain't got to be nobody's nigga no more.

The audience at Manhattan's Supper Club grew quiet as Will took the stage for his performance on Def Poetry Jam. It was a wintry February night in 2004. He sported black boots, black jeans, and a black T-shirt with bold white letters spelling out "Black on Black Rhyme," one of his favorite poetry groups, based in Tallahassee. He also wore a black glove on his right hand.

Scowling and gesticulating, Will unloaded a steady staccato of words that form the verses to his poem "So I Run," a boiling-with-rage ballad documenting his dreams of saving his African-American heroes Harriet Tubman, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and two of hip-hop's most important rappers: Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

His voice climbed decibels as he ripped through the poem. Reading the last stanza, Will raised his gloved fist and bowed his head in homage to 1968 Olympic medal winners Tommie Smith and John Carlos's black-power salute. The audience rose to its feet and roared as Da Real One coolly walked offstage.

That moment catapulted Will's budding career as a poet. It made him a popular commodity. He toured coast to coast doing national slam competitions. He traveled to Seattle, Baltimore, New York, Boston, and other U.S. cities. He also landed gigs from Toronto to Kingston. He released his first spoken-word CD, Verbal Vision, and began working with local rappers such as Luther Campbell, Trick Daddy, and Trina. For inspiration he read the works of Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Gil Scott-Heron, Nikki Giovanni, and, most recently, the Last Poets, of the '60s civil rights movement.

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35 comments
willfan
willfan

Wow, Will amazing article about you, I am just reading this, and I must say, we all do right and wrong things in our lives NO ONE lives right and perfect, but we shouldn't judge and definitely shouldn't say someone should pay for their actions by death and saying he got what he deserved, that is beyond cold hearted and harsh. Its not like the article is talking about a mass murderer who rapes and kills little kids and the world would be better off without a human being like them, this is man who struggled in young life, and turned his life around to the best he could and tried to make a living with a passion and a dream. Because he didn't sit behind a desk working 9-5 corporate America or carrying a master degree under his belt doesn't mean his decision to make money with his passion makes him wrong. Will was talented, and I give high respect to even chase after his dream of Spoken Word. Spoken word isn't largely known and to see someone try to make a living off it it is impressive, he made people see what poetry is, and introduced poetry to a lot of pple. Its obvious he made someone mad enough to want to take his life away, but to put judgment on oh he must of did something to deserve it, is just cruel.And to read that he felt something in his heart/mind that made him have restless nights before he died, makes it even sadder, if only he could of said something. Will, you held it down in the poetry world. To many of us, people thought you were just balling with money, and many envied the fact that you made money out of your own business and passion, but as this article proves, things weren't as they seemed.You carried a god given talent, and when you would read and spit your poetry you made the building have vibrations. Being in a city like Miami where people just don't give a dam and will kill for almost any reason, saddens me that you were a part of it, i truly believe, had you been able to close the shop and tour just a little bit earlier than your death, you would of still been here, Miami, carry too much hate, and wouldn't want to see anyone successful.Your poetry lives on, thank goodness for your cds, and writings because it remains here, and it will forever be, in this generation, the next generation and more generations to come, a touch in peoples lives. You don't only leave behind a poet murdered, you leave behind your gift, and thats something a lot of people don't get a chance to do when they pass. Forever in our hearts, forever in our memories, forever in poetry! Love u Will

Frm3052904
Frm3052904

I frequented the The Literary Cafe and I had never heard of or ever seen this Tosca until the demise of Will, where she now decides to be all over the news as his "life partner". I, like the previous poster, only knew SANDI as Will's fiancee. She is the face that I saw at the cafe, she was the one on the front row at the funeral (next to his son), her name was in the obituary, she was the one that picked out the casket, and the one that decided to put him in the suit he had on. I don't know what kind of fame Tosca is seeking out of this. But its dispicable to try to gain from someone's death. Such a shame. (I won't bother to discuss her attire).

Poetryhesaidshesaid
Poetryhesaidshesaid

FRAUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This Tosca USED to be Will's girlfriend, but at the time of his death he was engaged to a lovely woman named Sandra (the love of his life since around 2008-2009). Ask the family. The poetry community has come to know Sandra as Sandra BELL!!!!! THAT is who is grieving the most, and this foolishness is not helping. If this is REAL journalism then they would have noticed that this PHONY was NOT in the family car, was NOT in the front row at the funeral, and NOT in the three seats at the burial. FACT CHECK and stop letting desperate fame seekers (with a HORRIBLE fashion sense in the area of funeral attire) distract you from the important task at hand, and that is to find who murdered my friend! And you can keep deleting my comment... I will KEEP POSTING IT!

Poetryhesaidshesaid
Poetryhesaidshesaid

FRAUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This Tosca female USED to be Will's girlfriend, but at the time of his death he was engaged to a lovely woman named Sandra (the love of his life since around 2008-2009). Ask the family. The poetry community has come to know Sandra as Sandra BELL!!!!! THAT is who is grieving the most, and this foolishness is not helping. If this is REAL journalism then they would have noticed that this PHONY was NOT in the family car, was NOT in the front row at the funeral, and NOT in the three seats at the burial. FACT CHECK and stop letting desperate fame seekers (with horrible taste in fashion and funeral wear) distract you from the important task at hand, and that is to find who murdered my friend! AND SCENE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Urtik
Urtik

Dam whether he's Black or White, the truth is the light, you moron.

LMR
LMR

A fine intellectual killed by a coward nigger...what a shame. RIP Will.

CAMSHEEL
CAMSHEEL

I am here to say to the family do not know details of this murder i just want to say my prayers go out to the family of this young man life cut short in his prime.

Happy
Happy

There's a reason why we're still around and he's not!

aaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaaaaaa

he screwed up and paid the price...not as innocent as you make him

aaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaa

really...and we are supposed to believe he is innocent? don't buy that crap. And not every man or woman is important to us because when they bring their beliefs and lazy lifestyle of robbery, drugs and murder they are nothing to us and they need to die right away.,,no jail time just a bullet. Miami is pathetic because we let Cubans take over and ruin it. You never let peasants run a state or a country...they have no idea of politics...just greed and self-serviing to their breed. Peasants thinking they know how to run our cities...what a waste Miami is.

Charles Dundee
Charles Dundee

Will and another woman from Liberty City were the first ones to encourage my writing and gave me an intimate look inside life in the inner-city. It really is a loving community in many ways. No matter how bad my initial poems seemed to be, they kept encouraging me and always made me feel at home.

Havetoseeit
Havetoseeit

Come on people that crap is not poetry or God inspired verse....it stupid ass shit spewed by someone trying to act smart. Go to the fucking Opera or Ballet you losers

ABLACKMANDIDIT.COM
ABLACKMANDIDIT.COM

Listen to some of the comments by these negroes. It's like, "just another day in the office."The only way these WHITE MEN in BLACK BODIES will overcome, including me, is when JESUS GETS BACK..

ABLACKMANDIDIT.COM
ABLACKMANDIDIT.COM

By the same token. Le me explain something to some of you lame brains about what it is to be an American. To be an American means that from this point on, I see each man as a man. Not as a Cuban or a Haitian or a Mexican or a Hondoran or a Columbian. We see a person as a man, as an individual, regardless of race color or creed. How many of you can do that. Probably very few. Why? Because you're a Jackass. Any true man will tell you that every man is important, every dream is important, and most of all, the 'PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD. Go inside suckers, that's where the problem is.Get the speck outcha own eye!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ABLACKMANDIDIT.COM
ABLACKMANDIDIT.COM

It's too much under the rug down here and all they need is some poor political poet to bring national attention to it. Think about it. All the Black Leadership Miami has had, has come in the like of "ya done good" type of shit or Uncle Loco. The only man I can remember with some sense is the one they aggravated so bad, he went to the Enquirer and shot his own head off. When it really dawn upon the White Folks up North, what the Cubans have done down here, they'll call for Senate Hearings. Trust me,

ABLACKMANDIDIT.COM
ABLACKMANDIDIT.COM

It left no questions with me. I've been hear since 19 53 and know their is an element who fears any strong Black outspoken competition. A Black man may have pulled the trigger, but some of these killings of African Men are orchestrated by Arabs or Cubans. Trust me.

guest
guest

If we had all known him before, his Cafe would have been sold out every night.

Vtillman87
Vtillman87

This is such a tragedy. I didn't know him personally, but I got the chance to hear him recite some of his poetry. He was a great man that died for a foolish reason and he will always be remembered. RIP Will

Ttsturrup
Ttsturrup

I went to his funeral last month.

La Guardia
La Guardia

Incredible article and tribute to Will. It gives me insight into the life off this great person I've met, but never got the chance to know.

+

JeffZelaya
JeffZelaya

Chilling story. Great work Francisco - your best piece thus far.

Jeff

JACOOK16
JACOOK16

CILL MY LANDLORD.... CILL MY LANDLORD..... C-I-L-L....CILL MY LANDLORD.

yokolee
yokolee

Great poetry...........(?)

eston.anderson
eston.anderson

@Poetryhesaidshesaid       HI POETRY HOW ARE YOU IM ESTON I WAS WILLS FRIEND AND INVESTOR I WOULD APPRECIATE IF YOU COULD GET ME IN TOUCH WITH HIS MOM AND OR HIS GIRL SANDRA [M PLANNING A SHOW DEDICATED TO MY FRIEND AT THE JAMES L KNIGHT CENTER NEXT YEAR YOU CAN REACH ME AT eston.anderson@yahoo.com

Guest
Guest

this person must be white

Guest
Guest

that must be in your dreams. wake up man. America is separated country with each group only for themselves. that is reality!!!

guest
guest

and why would Cubans want to kill black men? when half of Cuba's population are African descendents

Terri UrbanaSpeakz Meredith
Terri UrbanaSpeakz Meredith

indeed it is. his body of work is an amazing thing to feel. i'm blessed to have the opportunity to do so, blessed to know the man who created it.

rickscottblows
rickscottblows

Easy to get rid of Cubans. Start unlocking your outboards and rigging them to explode.

yokolee
yokolee

I set up a Facebook profile where I can post my pictures, videos and events and I want to add you as a friend so you can see it. First, you need to join Facebook! Once you join, you can also create your own profile. Thanks,Adela

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