Frank Lucas, immortalized by Denzel Washington in the 2007 acclaimed Ridley Scott film American Gangster, is a man of many contradictions: drug lord and family man, petty criminal and business innovator, mortal enemy and life-long friend. His remarkable rise was echoed by an equally remarkable fall, and today his storied life is as much a cautionary tale as it is a tale of redemption. At the podium, Frank Lucas sheds new light on his now infamous story and inspires audiences to consider the nature of both sin... and salvation.
Frank Lucas arrived in Harlem in 1946 as a 16-year-old teen, eager to make his mark. Within months he was ripping off neighborhood bars, jewelry stores, as well as the local hustlers and gangsters. After apprenticing with legendary Harlem gangster Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, Lucas set up shop. During the late 60's and 70's, he mapped and exploited a narcotics traffic route from Southeast Asia directly to Harlem, NY. Known particularly for extricating middlemen from the drug trade, Frank Lucas organized the smuggling of heroin from Vietnam via the caskets of slain U.S. servicemen. His operation was dubbed by NY prosecutors as "one of the most outrageous international dope smuggling gangs ever." For Frank Lucas, the sky was the limit, and potential seemed infinite.
Arrested on Jan 28, 1975 for New Jersey state and Federal drug violations, Frank Lucas was convicted and sentenced to 70 years in prison. Thanks to his cooperation with the authorities, he was released after 14 years in prison in 1991, only to find a changed Harlem, decimated, in part, by the deleterious effects of his legacy. Today, Lucas, wheelchair-bound, fully understands the nature of his impact on his beloved NY community. His mission is to amend that legacy. To the youth of the nation, he is now committed… committed to show, by example, via his Frank Lucas Foundation and by reaching out to as many people as possible, that redemption is available to all, even to that venerable, retired gangster we all hate to love.