Malik Yoba says he grew up emersed in the New York theatre scene watching iconic performers like Phylicia Rashad, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Adolph Caesar, and Charles Fuller. They were all members of The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC).
“I was definitely in love with the theatre as a kid. I was in the drama program and studied privately as a teenager,” said Yoba. “I also worked as an usher and ticket cashier at the NEC.”
Early in his TV career, Yoba remembers auditioning for the popular eighties television show “Fame” and being overlooked for a role.
He also auditioned for the part of Carlton Banks in the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” but lost the role to actor Alfonso Ribeiro. “Alfonso Ribeiro got it, g—dammit,” said Yoba. “But I don’t think there could have been a better Carlton than him.”
Yoba says he was never pressed when he did not get a role because he was much more passionate about pursuing his music at the time.
“I felt with music, you can control it. I can perform anywhere. I can pick up my guitar and sing in a subway or do an open-mic somewhere,” said Yoba.
“Acting is a lot harder unless you’re in a production or you’re putting a production together. However, now you can literally put any kind of content together. People do it all day long. They do their skits on Instagram, TikTok, so it’s a whole different world when it comes to creating content.”
Yoba says one thing the 2023 Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strikes have shown performers is that creating your own content and creating your own opportunities are key to success.
“It’s important to learn the craft, but if you love storytelling, you might want to do yourself a favor and look at it in its totality,” said Yoba.
Yoba says performers should explore and take chances, which may lead to the discovery of a new talent that opens new opportunities in entertainment.
“My father always said, ‘If they turn off the generator, you’ll still have lights,’” remembered Yoba. He says he lives by that philosophy. It is tattooed on his arm and he now applies it to his new business ventures.
According to the official website, his company, Yoba Development, is a diversified portfolio company specializing in real estate, education, and media. The company’s mission features a commitment to building human capacity through education, while simultaneously pursuing sustainable and affordable mixed-use development projects in transitioning neighborhoods.
“Growing up in the South Bronx and Harlem in the ‘80, when it was all burnt out and cracked out, I always dreamt about becoming a billionaire so I could fix it,” said Yoba. “I love architecture and interior design.”
Yoba says he knew he wanted to eventually start a company and drew inspiration from a developer character he portrayed in the show, “God Friended Me.”
“It was a moment while shooting, I wanted to bring three of my passions together, real estate, filmmaking, and young people,” said Yoba. “I shared that idea with a woman who is now my Chief of Staff. Two days later she gave me a deck which said, ‘I rebuild New York,’ and she had articulated my vision.”
Yoba says he then took that idea to a friend, who is a third-generation developer and billionaire.
He reveals this was a man of privilege, but one who was still aware of the societal issues facing the community. Yoba says he then shared with the friend the vision of using filmmaking to tell stories about how real estate has been used to empower the very wealthy.
“He said, ‘I’ll fund it,’” said Yoba. “I decided to shoot a documentary and I took seven young people of color on a six-week journey across the state of New York. Then that shoot became something called ‘The Real Estate Mix Tape.’”
“The Real Estate Mix Tape” is a 10-part docuseries that follows Yoba’s journey pursuing his first development deal in New York. Yoba says the docuseries then became the basis for educational programs, which launched last semester.
“It is the first real estate curriculum for high school students in New York. We ran it as an afterschool program,” said Yoba. “One of the kids did a paid internship last summer, then got hired by the company, and now he’s in the union. They’re going to pay for him to go to school. He’s 19-years-old.”
Yoba says that real estate was a life-long passion of the young man, and in eight months he went from dreaming about it to doing it.
Yoba says the educational program is not just specific to New York. He has projects in Augusta, Georgia, Chicago, Baltimore, and several other cities around the globe, including in South Africa.
“For the last two years, I’ve been going around the country screening my doc, and this creates [more] opportunities for development projects, education programs, and it also creates more opportunities to create more media,” said Yoba.
Yoba explains how real estate investments create cash flow, and because that cash flow needs to continue working, many individuals in real estate find investing in media projects appealing.
“There are a lot of parallels between the film business and [real estate] development because a real estate developer is like a producer of a film, an architect is like the writer of the film, and the contracting company is like the director,” said Yoba.
He says watching the construction of a building and watching a film are similar because they’re both telling stories.
For more information on Malik Yoba and Yoba Development visit www.yobadevelopment.com.
Keith L. Underwood is the host of the KBLA Talk 1580 entertainment radio show, “Black In The Green Room.” A former entertainment publicist, he currently develops platforms for performers, creatives, and Hollywood execs to shine and inspire. IG: @umaworldwide
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