Will "Da Real One" Bell, a rising spoken-word star who has appeared on Russell Simmons' "Def Poetry Jam," returned triumphantly to Miami last month after his poetry team finished fifth in a national competition of 83 teams in Austin, Texas. "That's the best finish ever for a Florida team," said Bell, whose rhymes often focus on his hard-scrabble upbringing in Liberty City.
But the next night, the Magic City's star poet didn't receive much of a homecoming. He was getting ready for his routine Tuesday night gig -- a combination of spoken word poetry and speed dating -- when he learned that he had been evicted.
Aristotle "Ari" Diamond, longtime owner of North Miami's Literary Cafe and Poetry Lounge, told Da Real One that he'd found a renter. Result: the slam poets had to find another space. Bell was shocked; he'd been gigging there for three and half years and claimed to have an "oral lease" with Diamond. When Bell demanded access to his space, police told him he couldn't get in because he wasn't a tenant.
Chicago native Diamond, who has owned the Literary Cafe for two decades, said flatly, "Will isn't a tenant. He never has been. The word tenancy does not even apply," he said, his voice simmering. "Will was a performer, that's it."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Diamond says he never received a rent check from Bell, and that Bell never had an "oral lease." The only money exchanged, Diamond says, was from the cover. "We charged five dollars. We'd split it."
Of Bell's claim to tenancy -- several thousand dollars worth of audio equipment, televisions and flyers in the cafe -- Diamond scoffs, "He's a regular performer. Of course I'd let him keep his stuff there."
So why did he lock the poet out so abruptly? He found a permanent tenant — a Latino artist/comedian, whose name he wouldn't reveal. "He pays $950. He's going to have the utilities transferred to his name. He has a lease. He's a real tenant." Diamond is shocked by Bell's response and has considered a legal response. "Some of the things said about me are, I hate to say this, lies. It's character defamation."
Meanwhile, Da Real One insists that he's not giving up on the Literary Cafe space. He's going to pursue Diamond legally. "Oral leases are admissible in the state of Florida," he said. "My girl has been in real estate for 18 years. The North Miami police... They were wrong."-Josh Schonwald