On May 24, 2011, police responded to calls reporting gunfire on a quiet street in Newark, New Jersey. Inside the basement apartment, the found a young man slumped over from several gunshot wounds. He was already deceased and at the time, his life and accomplishments were unknown to the officers. His name was Robert DeShaun Peace (1971-2011). He was 30 years old. Following his death, his short and tragic life began to come to light with the publication of this memoir by his former college roommate and friend, Jeff Hobbs, and even Hollywood. On October 6, 2014, Antoine Fuqua, the director of the award-winning ‘Training Day’, announced that he would direct a biopic about Peace.
But just who was Robert DeShaun Peace? He was born in East Orange, New Jersey and defied the odds, leaving the inner-city to graduate a degree in molecular biochemistry from Yale University. He was raised by a single mother and struggled with his feelings toward his father, who was incarcerated for the majority of his son’s life. Fate and luck combined to give the young man for East Orange a golden opportunity to attend Yale University. And it was here that he and Hobbs formed the friendship that produced this interesting yet tragic story of a brilliant young man. Peace was described as nearly a genius in the things that he did and his life even took him as far as Croatia. Sadly, he would return to the very streets he sought to escape which would later claim his life.
The story of Robert Peace is one that could be told in any number of cities across America. Millions of young men and women face the same struggle and demons as Peace as they attempt to find their way in life. Some of them will make it and accomplish their goals but tragically others will fall victim to the very streets they wish to escape. Peace’s mother worked a variety of jobs as a single mother. The tragedy of his father’s incarceration adds to the mix of conditions that have plagued inner-city homes for decades. From the time of his birth, the odds were not in his favor. But perseverance, fortune and an incredibly brilliant mind, transformed this young man’s life and for him, the sky was the limit.
Peace’s return to Newark and the actions that lead to his death force us to question why is it that an Ivy league graduate returned to the very streets which threatened his daily existence and engaged in activities that are prone to end in incarceration or even death? Typically, graduates of Yale go on to bigger and better things. Peace is no longer with us to give us an explanation and we can only speculate as to where he saw his life heading. If he had lived and followed down the path of molecular biochemistry, perhaps he would be a Nobel Peace Prize winner. His untimely death speaks to us all reminding us of the shortness of life and the value of a great mind. With this book, Hobbs has done a great service to the life and memory of an exceptionally gifted young man.