BY NADEGE GREEN AND JULIE K. BROWN
The family of a talented North Miami poet who was gunned down in an apparent hit early Sunday is bewildered over why anyone would want to kill someone who spent the better part of his life using his art to inspire others.
A gunman leapt out of a car and shot Bell, 47, multiple times outside his business, The Literary Cafe and Poetry Lounge, 933 NE 125th St., about 12:40 a.m. Sunday, May 29.
Police detectives said Tuesday that they do not believe Bell was involved in anything that caused his death, but that he had recently fallen into debt. The shooting, police sources said, appeared to be an assassination. One witness told police that after the shooting, the gunman coolly walked away.
Bell’s brother, Curtis Fullwood, said Bell survived too much hardship to die such a cruel death.
“He came too far in life to go like that, shot down in a parking lot. It’s not right,” Fullwood said.
Bell grew up in the Edison Court Projects at Northwest Third Avenue and 62nd Street in Miami. In 1989, Bell was arrested for cocaine trafficking and spent 14 months in prison. Those who knew him said he stopped dealing in the street life when he discovered his talent for poetry while incarcerated.
“It was rough growing up in the Edison projects. It was dope-infested. Anything bad that could happen was there. It wasn’t the best environment one could be brought up in, but he didn’t let that keep him down for long. He was brilliant,” Fullwood said.
On Tuesday, friends, fans and family began planning celebrations of his life and fundraisers to help his family pay for his funeral. Those closest to him spoke about his selflessness, how he devoted endless hours to his poetry and to helping mentor others in spite of his own struggles with his business.
Yongsta, 25, a poet who goes by a singular name, said he met the imposing six-foot-five artist eight years ago when Bell visited North Miami Senior High. His words and his dynamic presence changed Yongsta’s life. He made “freeing minds” his mission, with pieces that illustrated the plight of urban poverty like Black Heroes and When I Grow Up and Run.
Yongsta said Bell treated him like a son.
“The poetry kept me looking for something else instead of doing something wrong,’’ he said.
But he admitted that Bell was under a lot of pressure financially.
“It was a constant burden keeping it open,’’ Yongsta said of Bell’s business. “You have your good nights and your bad nights. But he dealt with his problems and he didn’t worry people.’’
Bell, a charismatic poet who is credited for putting South Florida’s poetry scene in the spotlight, for the most part kept his financial problems secret.
Joseph Coach, the in-house DJ who goes by “DJ Make It Do What It Do,” said there were times Bell pawned personal items to make the monthly rent for his North Miami poetry lounge.
“Will wasn’t the kind of person who would ask for a handout. Times were hard. He was stressed out sometimes trying to keep the doors open to make sure poets had a place to go,” Coach said.
After heavy promotion on social media, some nights, the club saw about a dozen patrons.
Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.
Services for Bell
A viewing will be from noon to 9 p.m. Friday at Wright & Young Funeral Home, 15332 NW Seventh Ave., near North Miami.
The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Cooper Temple, 3800 NW 199th St., Miami Gardens.
Several poetry benefits are planned in memory of Will Bell and to help assist the family with expenses:
Wednesday, 1 p.m., at The Bohemia Room, 3215 NE Second Ave., Miami.
Thursday, 8 p.m., at Verbal Calligraphy, 2029 Harrison St. Hollywood.
For more information on other upcoming events, see Facebook, keywords: Will “Da Real One” Bell, or contact Ingrid B. firstname.lastname@example.org. 305-519-1369.