BUFFALO, N.Y. — Editor’s note: This is the first installment of an occasional series we’re calling “East Side Stories.” In the series, we examine issues that affect the residents of the East Side, told through the lens of people working to address the problem. Companion stories will air on Channel 2. Today, we focus on violence and the work of John “Tubbs” Smith and his colleagues in Buffalo Peacemakers.
John Smith became a Peacemaker the hard way.
Born in a prison — his mother was an inmate — he was given a generic name because his parents weren’t available to name him or sign his birth certificate. As a youth he bounced around “every foster home on the East Side,” then killed a bystander in a botched hit job at the age of 17. Instead of attending college on a basketball scholarship, he spent 27 years in prison.
“My background, definitely different. From the streets to prison to now,” he told Investigative Post.
“I’ve been cut, stabbed, whatever you can think of. Beat up by police, the whole nine,” Smith said. “But the most beautiful thing about all of that is that the journey brought me here. The journey brought me back to where I started, just with a better outlook about where I came from.”