Malik Yoba: Un-Covered
Seems like just yesterday Malik Yoba hit the television screen playing a “take nothing from nobody” New York cop who was trying to live the “straight and narrow” and raise his young son in a city that was always one step ahead. It didn’t take long for us to start seeing Yoba all over our television sets on a regular basis. But there was always more to this actor than what we saw on the small screen.
Born Abdul-Malik Kashie Yoba, the actor better known to his fans as just Malik Yoba, was one of six children born and raised in Bronx, New York. Living the faster typical New York City life Yoba unfortunately got wrapped up in the street life until a bullet hit him in the neck at the age of 15. Little did Yoba know, that bullet would change his life forever. “Surviving the trauma inspired me to challenge the climate of violence that almost took my life, and I began working as a volunteer with youth organizations in my community,” stated the actor. Yoba decided to devote himself to volunteering and in his early twenties became a full time counselor. Working for many years as a youth activist in New York City, he came in contact with many young people from across the world. His passion as a youth counselor included teaching music and acting to school age children. “What I’ve found with most kids is, no matter how rich or poor they are, or which cultural or ethnic backgrounds they represent, most don’t have a clue what their purpose in life is,” said the actor. “I believe that we all have a mission in life and kids especially need to know this. They need to know that they do have a voice, that they can find that voice and use it to affect positive changes in their own lives, their communities, and in the world.” His reputation in the community eventually led him to interviews on Oprah and The Arsenio Hall Show.
On a whim, Yoba decided in 1991, to attend a casting call session for an up and coming Disney comedy called Cool Runnings. Yoba sought out this movie on a friend’s request and quickly forgot about the casting shortly after he was done. But, when his phone rang a month later to his astonishment the studio invited him to co-star in the picture alongside John Candy, Leon, and Doug E. Doug. “I didn’t have an agent or even a head shot. I went to an open castings call, and they chose me. I guess it was that I had perfected my Jamaican accent hanging out with the Jamaicans in Washington Square Park,” joked the actor. Cool Runnings ended up breaking the $68 million mark at the box office.
Yoba then landed one of the two lead roles in the first season of the Fox drama series New York Undercover. The actor made a strong impression as “JC Williams,” the caring, levelheaded cop who puts duty before his private life co-starring next to Michael de Lorenzo who played “Eddie Torres.” Critics heavily criticized the show for its intense, take-no-prisoners realism and street slang but the series lasted for four seasons and finally wrapped in June 1998. Yoba returned to volunteering with full force after the show wrapped. The activist held a series of interactive lectures for troubled urban youth called “Why Are You on This Planet?” “The program combined exercises in reading, writing, art, music, and visualization to teach children self-empowerment and the wisdom of solid decision making,” according to starpulse.com. The program was an instant success. Not only did Yoba create the “Why Are You on This Planet?” program for underprivileged kids but he has also been involved as an advisor of the CityKids Foundation. This is an organization that fosters cultural pluralism and youth empowerment, since 1993. He is also a board member of Reach and Hale House; both organizations dedicated to helping children succeed.
Although Yoba has been extremely involved in organizations dedicated to helping children he hasn’t forgotten about acting. Yoba participated in two different Indie dramas in 1997. First he starred as “Detective Carson” in James Mangold’s CopLand, then he starred alongside Vivica A Fox and Vanessa L Williams in George Tillman Jr.’s drama Soul Food. The films: Oh Happy Day (2004), Kids in America (2005), and They’re Just My Friends (2006), barely made a splash with critics or the public. Following with a series drama called Bull in 2000 which also didn’t receive great ratings. But in March 2006, the crime series Thief aired on the FX network and received excellent ratings. In 2007, Yoba continued his success with an appearance in the TV series Raines and also the very popular Why Did I Get Married written and produced by Tyler Perry.
We hope, as a loving and devoted audience that Yoba is not finished gracing the big and small screens, purely for our pleasure. This diamond in the rough hasn’t tapped into everything he has to offer and we can’t wait to see what he has in store.