Despite the phenomenon of many young actors struggling for years to break into Hollywood -- driving taxicabs and waiting tables until determination, persistence, and raw ability reel in a breakthrough -- a select few stumble into acting and celebrity by sheer happenstance. Malik Yoba epitomizes this idea. While working in a field with virtually no connection to the entertainment industry, Yoba decided, simply for fun, to attend a casting call session for a forthcoming Disney comedy called Cool Runnings. When his phone rang one month later, that single call changed Yoba's life forever.
Born September 17, 1967, in New York City, Yoba came of age in the crime-ridden ghettoes of the Bronx and Harlem -- so crime-ridden and dangerous, in fact, that he found it impossible to escape the reach of violence. He fell into the path of a bullet at age 15, which hit him in the neck but (fortunately) did not inflict permanent injury or disability. A self-described "misunderstood child," Yoba empathized deeply, as a young man, with troubled inner-city youth, and regarded many as the victims of widely held racial and social misperceptions. Yoba thus opted to devote himself to volunteering, and later (in his early twenties) to full-time counseling, with endless exhaustive hours spent in NYC youth organizations. His specialties and passions in this role included teaching music and acting to school-age children and adolescents, and he would often organize teenagers around a specific cause, to pass on the flame of activism -- encouraging them to mount their own grass-roots social activism. These years found Yoba paying fervent and frequent visits to such institutions as secondary schools, homeless shelters, and penitentiaries.