For over a decade, Cobe Williams has been a Violence Interrupter, a highly-trained conflict resolution expert working to stop the killing. Alongside thousands of workers across the country, many of whom he trained, Cobe intervenes in street conflicts before they result in murder.
Interrupting Violence follows his evolution from a gang leader to a vanguard of a social justice movement. More than a memoir, Interrupting Violence spans three generations of trauma to portray a radically optimistic vision for addressing urban violence.
Born into the notorious Black Disciples, Cobe rose through the ranks as a drug dealer, hustler, and shot-caller. His father, an influential gang member, was murdered before Cobe turned 11. Five men, his father's so-called friends, beat him to death in the lobby of a public housing project. Cobe spent years seeking answers to what happened that night.
As he rose through the ranks—at one time, commanding over 100 men throughout the city while still in high school—a gang war turned his world upside down. Its escalation overshadowed his ascent. The war, stoked by police, who fanned the conflict's flames, would engulf friends and family, nearly costing him his life. Ultimately, Cobe would end up behind bars for attempted murder he didn't commit.
Interrupting Violence follows Cobe as he undertakes this redemption journey, offering new hope for the nation's most violent communities. Cobe takes readers into an often misunderstood and misrepresented aspect of the Black experience in America. As the country wrestles with the inequities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic and the complex intersections of urban violence, racial issues, police brutality, and poverty in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder, this book provides an inspiring blueprint. Cobe's story demonstrates how the country can resolve the issues plaguing our inner cities.
Cobe Williams is the Director of National Programs for Cure Violence Global (CVG), where he trained over five thousand workers in violence prevention. He appeared in the film The Interrupters and People, Vice, Ebony, and The New Yorker. He received a standing ovation at his TEDx event. He serves as a community ambassador for basketball star Joakim Noah's Foundation. Cobe earned a BA at Northeastern Illinois University and is pursuing a Master's in social work. He lives in a Chicago suburb with his wife, Andrea, and their four children.Josh Gryniewicz is an author, storyteller, comic book writer, and health communicator. He was a contributing author to Beyond Suppression: Global Perspectives on Youth Violence and Crime & Society and a regular columnist with PopMatters. In 2018, he founded Odd Duck, a storytelling for social change communication consultancy, which has advised over fifty violence prevention programs throughout the country. He is the former communication director for Cure Violence.
Foreword by Alex Kotlowitz
Foreword by Joakim Noah
Part I: Born into It
Chapter 1: One Chicago Summer
Chapter 2: Cadillac Goalposts
Chapter 3: Navigating Borderlands
Chapter 4: Ain’t Too Dumb
Chapter 5: The Most Dangerous Gas Station in America
Chapter 6: A Chicago Winter
Chapter 7: Strategies for Resolving Conflict
Chapter 8: After My Father’s Murder
Chapter 9: On the Trail of Big Folks
Chapter 10: The Professional Gangster
Part II: All Out War
Chapter 11: The Stick-Up Man
Chapter 12: At My Front Door
Chapter 13: How This Could’ve Played Out
Chapter 14: Escalations
Chapter 15: How This Could’ve Played Out, Part II
Chapter 16: A Shoot-Out & A Frame-Up
Part III: Path to Peacekeeping
Chapter 17: History Repeating Itself
Chapter 18: Wild Wild
Chapter 19: Chicago’s Hidden History
Chapter 20: Revenge is Hardwired
Chapter 21: The Start of Something
Chapter 22: Healing Wounds
Chapter 23: A New Life
Part IV: Looking Upstream
Chapter 24: Gamechanger
Chapter 25: The National Program
Chapter 26: One City, One Game
Chapter 27: NYC Crisis Management System (CMS)
Chapter 28: Real Chicago
Chapter 29: Group Mediations
Chapter 30: Righting the Upside-Down World
About the Authors
Cobe's story is a testament to the belief that nobody is ever lost. Everyone can have a second chance. Everyone can turn their life around and do something positive. Cobe was a product of his environment. Now, he is making things happen all over the country—all over the world. He has made a real impact.
Now, even more necessary, to hear the voices directly from the Street . . . where everywhere, the killing is happening.