Ricardo “Cobe” Williams grew up in Englewood, a small community in Chicago, Illinois. During his youth, Cobe was surrounded by violence, and he started gangbanging at the age of 10, as "the lifestyle at that time was exciting to me." When he was 11, his father was killed as a result of gang violence. All of Cobe's teenage years were spent in and out in prison for various offenses.
In 2004, after years of watching the senseless violence in his community being played out on the news, Cobe started volunteering with CeaseFire (now Cure Violence). It became his mission to help the people of his community and to improve their lives and the lives of future generations, letting them know that there's always a peaceful way to overcome life's struggles.
“I was a part of the problem in the community, now I'm a part of the solution. I want to be a father to my son, because my father wasn't there for me. I want to be able to raise a lot of the other kids in the community. Most of these kids are like me, they come from broken homes and don't have much.”
Cobe Williams was a Violence Interrupter with CeaseFire/Cure Violence for four years and is now involved in national and international training, helping to bring Cure Violence's successful violence interruption model to other cities worldwide. On a national level, he also travels to different regions for speaking engagements, youth mentoring workshops, and The Interrupters movie screenings. In Chicago, Cobe continues to promote peace and be a mentor to high-risk youth.
Photo: Steve Floyd - SteveFloydPhoto.com
In 2012, Cobe's tireless efforts to stop the violence in Chicago caught the eye of Chicago Bulls All-Star center, Joakim Noah, and the two joined forces with other community leaders, Father Michael Pfleger and Asa "Duce" Powell, to organize the first Peace Basketball Tournament. The tournament's success in bringing together at-risk and gang-related youth from around the city planted the seeds for future efforts.
Since then, Cobe has been spending his free time helping to organize mini tournaments around the city (with Joakim Noah and the Noah's Arc Foundation), running workshops to teach violence prevention to at-risk youth, and mentoring those in need, wherever they may be.