Moment Of Clarity

LESSONS LEARNED: Malik Yoba of “Empire” Fame

Credit: Kevin Kneeland & Nicole Oriatti of K&N Media

“My dad was a wise man but my friends called him the Ayatollah. My dad was no joke and beat me for everything.” ~Malik Yoba

Malik Yoba of “Empire” has captured the attention, and hearts, of audiences since his role on “New York Undercover”. However, few people know how he achieved his distinguished demeanor and Zen-like disposition. I had a chance to sit down with Malik for some one-on-one time and you’d never guess how he came to be the cool, calm, and collected brother he is today.

Check out his story below.

As we sat down to talk, I asked Malik point blank, “Tell me something no one knows about you.” Malik’s response: “That’s a loaded question.”

Malik paused and began talking about his father. “My dad was a wise man but my friends called him the Ayatollah. My dad was no joke and beat me for everything.

I used to get the butt naked, extension cord beatings. In fact, when I saw “12 Years A Slave” and the Lupita character was being beaten, the shot was framed with a lot of negative space to the left. I didn’t actually look at the beating. I looked at the space to the left because I recalled memories of being beaten like that.

Those were my experiences growing up until I turned 15-years-old when I literally grabbed the extension cord out of my father’s hand. We lived in a duplex and my father went downstairs and he came back with two hammers — one in each hand. I jumped out the window and ran away from home for a few days and ultimately kicked out at 16-years-old lived with my mother. That’s what that dude was about.

My kids haven’t experienced that because I consciously chose not to do what was done to me. I would not strip my kids down and beat them with an extension cord ’til they bleed; that was an extreme and I don’t have that spirit. I don’t share the same level of frustration that my father had, so I don’t pass that onto my children. That’s something that definitely shaped me and gave me some wisdom on what not to do.

Corporal punishment was passed down and my father was extreme with it. My grandfather tied my father to a chair and beat him, and his father, my great grandfather, was a slave.”

Malik then went on to talk about how he was affected after his mother left his father.

“My parents were separated by the time I was 10-years-old and all six kids stayed with my dad. My parents split up because they weren’t getting along on so many levels. I remember the day: It was Valentine’s Day in 1977 and my mother called the cops. White cops came to the house and asked my mother to leave. My grandmother lived with us and they both walked out of the house, leaving behind six children and a man, a Black man. Now, imagine a woman making a distress call to the cops in 2015 and being asked to leave.

When my mother left I was like, “Oh wow, there’s my mother walking out of the house.” I mean I didn’t know how to process it all and it took years to process what it meant for my mother to leave. I was in my 20’s or 30’s discovering that I had abandonment issues and was attracted to older women because my mother left when I was ten.

Growing up, my father did things that I thought was dumb and made statements that I knew were untrue. For example, he said my mother was unfit and I thought to myself, no you’re crazy I would have left you, too. As a kid, I learned how to see past his limitations and I had the ability to do that with adults in general.

My father died when he was 68-years-old from cancer. He was shriveled up in this hospital bed and said, “Your mother did this to me.” My thought to him was “It probably has a lot to do with that fact that you were unable to let things go.”

My father went through a lot and held onto a lot. He was born in 1927 and wasn’t the type of man who talked about his emotions or processed things. I have more of a new age approach to all this and he didn’t have that privilege. In all fairness, he was doing the best that he could base on what he knew.

Malik attributes his progressiveness to studying Buddhism at 16-years-old after his mother exposed him to it. It was through understanding the law of causality and karma, reading eastern literature and books like “Conversations with God” that he started thinking and seeing things from a karmic perspective and understanding life differently. At age 33, Yoba discovered and embraced Christianity. Both faiths have been instrumental to his spiritual evolution.


1)   Take personal responsibility. It’s all about the perspective and owning the role you playing in the outcome of a situation. There’s something very powerful when you take responsibility for your perspective you have when things happen. You can either chose to see things as either happening for you, to you, with you or against you. When you take responsibility, you develop character, trust, and integrity.

2)   Do not be a victim. Don’t blame others for your experiences. Let go of what has hurt you. Holding onto the hurt keeps you trapped in the past and makes it difficult for you to create the future that you want.

3)   Be mindful of your thoughts. Watch and be mindful of what you think and say. Pay particular attention to the monologues that you repeat in your head to yourself about yourself.

4)   Believe in yourself. At a high level, you have to begin with the belief that you CAN achieve certain things in life. You also have to stay open to infinite possibilities. This is why your thoughts are so powerful: Be careful what you think because your thoughts become words and words become your actions and actions become your habits and your habits become your character.

5)   Be light. There will always be darkness in the world choose to be light. We are all light so wherever you go make it a point to shine as brightly as possible. To be light is to simply be love.

Thank you, Malik for taking the time to share your lessons learned with me. With love and light I wish you pleasant journeys.

(*Featured Image Photo Credit: Kevin Kneeland & Nicole Oriatti of K&N Media)

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW

Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, and personality development, Jinnie has a nearly 90 percent success rate with her clients.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter here or join her on Facebook and Twitter!