A few years ago, while still living in Miami, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the most highly acclaimed spoken word performers in our city. This was a gentleman who had grown up in the Liberty City area of Miami, a.k.a. the projects. His childhood was tainted with adversity and a lack of positive role models that led to a troubled youth topped off by incarceration. It’s not an unusual story and, unfortunately, it is one that you hear repeatedly when growing up in the densely populated urban sprawl of a place like Miami.
In 2001, he discovered the power of poetry and his passion blossomed, turning him into a five-time nationally televised spoken word artist and winner of several slam championships during his short career.
Upon first meeting him I thought he was an imposing figure, standing 6’5″, broad-shouldered and dark-complected, with a baritone voice, and what appeared to be a stern demeanor. In reality, he was just incredibly reserved and very sweet. Quiet and thoughtful.
Until he hit the stage. On the stage is where he came alive. Where he left his blood, sweat, and – sometimes literal – tears.
We never became great friends, but we exchanged a few emails, mostly about the local poetry scene and what other poets to watch out for. He became someone I deeply respected and admired, both for his indisputable talent and the incontestable fact that he had become a “success story”; someone who’d made a conscious decision to turn his life around, not let his past define him, and become someone of whom the community could be proud, both as an artist in his own right and by mentoring other up-and-coming poets.
Unfortunately, there’s another story you hear repeatedly when you grow up in a city like Miami.
On May 29, 2011, in what can only be called a senseless act of violence, this well-loved and amazing individual lost his life.
I cannot tell you more than that, as I was not there when it happened.
What I do know is this; those of us that had the pleasure and the honor of seeing him perform live were truly blessed. We were lucky that he chose to share his gift with us. And we are lucky that his legacy will live on in his words.
Will ‘Da Real One’ Bell – “So I Run” (NSFW language)
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