By Lawanda Johnson
Digital Content Manager
Bred from an environment often known for broken promises and lost dreams, police handcuffs and emergency sirens, fatherless homes and even the drug-dealing syndrome, Antonio Cobia certainly hasn’t fallen victim to the hard knock streets of Baltimore City. Instead, he has diligently turned pain into purpose, building bridge ways to bring about citywide change.
In an area where most have been made powerless by the powerful, stripped of their voices and left with no choices, deeply divided and frequently rioted, Cobia has only endeavored to be the vessel that drives much-needed light into a town that has definitely seen its fair share of darkness.
“I always visualize the positive through the negativity, when, at times, it can be difficult; it’s been like that since I was younger. I believe it’s faith; faith as in knowing that everything will work out for the good, eventually, in whoever’s life–especially mine,” Cobia stated.
Shortly after getting married and starting his own family, Cobia soon sought ways to generate positivity throughout the negative landscape permeating his beloved community. Where others would follow the road to success and never look back, Cobia never forgot about the route to his roots, nor did he ever forget the neighborhoods that could, without a doubt, use a little uplifting.
For Cobia, his uplifting actually came through the form of fitness and a mission to provide a sense of unity. Following a life-changing transformation, he gained a passionate interest in advocating healthy eating and finding a way for people of all age demographics to enjoy staying in shape and out of trouble.
“When I was younger, there was violence, and there were crimes, but not like how it is in this day and age. Everything is downhill but it will turn around,” he added. “I mean, what happened to kids coming outside to playgrounds and courts or fields, being carefree, instead of wondering if they have to sell or rob to provide for their siblings or parents to put food on the table? The good old days, living carefree? Coming to the parks and going to the nearest recreation center? We need that energy back.”
With a limited amount of healthy foods and safe playfields throughout the district, Cobia’s objective was to constructively and effectively allocate an atmosphere that would serve as a beneficial force into his old stomping grounds.
When speaking with the husband and father of two, he recalls a dear memory of going to summer camp at Bocek Park, a place that generally kept him and his friends away from the violence. However, after noticing the impact that the recreational center’s closing had on the children of the locale, Cobia was out to make an impact of his own.
As Baltimore City’s crime rate steadily arose, ferocity only continued to rampage the neighborhoods. In the summer of 2017, Cobia decided to start a FreeSweat, a free exercise session that promoted togetherness of the youth and aimed to evoke a healthier life, mind, and body alteration.
“FreeSweat was essential, because I really wanted to be involved with my old neighborhood in a positive light,” he boasted. “I’ve done boot camps in other locations outside of the city but doing it in Bocek Park/Court was unreal. It’s one of the things that I always wanted to do, while I was sitting on Madison Street, watching all of the cars and picking out which one I would want… once I was able to drive. I used to look to my left, towards Bocek Park, thinking about upbringing the community.”
During the whole summer, Cobia offered FreeSweat classes every Tuesday and Thursday mornings. As the sessions went on, the attendance grew. From there, he realized that he had a calling. This was it for him. The empty void that Cobia had been waiting to fulfill for so long had finally been filled.
“These sessions were a tool to help others who were getting started in their fitness journey. The impact was to unify a group of people into changing habits–encouraging them, building confidence to make better decisions at the table,” Cobia explained. “It doesn’t just change overnight; it changes when you spread health awareness and make a change in your community! Step by step, things will get better.”
Now, in 2018, Antonio Cobia aspires to further his journey of aiding those in need, sustaining his goal to yield more eating guides, lifestyle tips, and workout groups to the public… in each and every way that he possibly can. Through his craft, he also desires to continue being a voice for the voiceless and taking a stand against the violent inf luence within the communities of Baltimore City.
“In two years, I can see myself getting wiser and more knowledgeable about my family and fitness career, but a key essential is seeing the Bocek Recreation reopen, along with other closed recreations in the inner city.” he said in closing. “When I make it to the top, I will make sure that I drop a ladder down for those who helped the movement! I just want to see a change! You know? Fresh energy and good vibes! It’s not about being seen; it’s about taking a stand. I’m just thankful for the opportunities to use my voice, because I realize that it’s important.”
As of now, the FreeSweat sessions are on a break. However, they will return this May at Bocek Park. Cobia hopes to see you there!
To learn more about Antonio Cobia, connect with him on Instagram: @PositiveTone12.
FreeSweat photos courtesy of Reginald Thomas