Pubdate: Sun, 11 Nov 2007
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2007 The New York Times Company
Author: Sam Roberts
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Francine Lucas says she thought her father was in the candy business.
Nicole and Ebony Barnes remember a lot of cash around their house, but
were not sure exactly what their father did.

Francine Lucas-Sinclair, in her home near Atlanta last week. Her
father, Frank Lucas, is the subject of "American Gangster."

In fact, Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes, now being portrayed in separate
films -- "American Gangster," starring Denzel Washington as Mr. Lucas,
and the documentary "Mr. Untouchable," about Mr. Barnes -- were
archrivals three decades ago in Harlem's cutthroat heroin trade.

The fruits of their fathers' drug-dealing were shared with the
daughters: a $10,000 toy train set, and so many Barbie dolls they gave
them away to friends.

So were the penalties for the fathers' crimes. When the girls were
young, their fathers were imprisoned. Their mothers were, too.
Francine Lucas was raised by grandparents. Nicole and Ebony Barnes
were placed in foster care.

Now, Francine Lucas-Sinclair is planning a program to mentor and
support children of parents who have been imprisoned. And in an
unscripted turn of events, Nicole and Ebony Barnes have volunteered to
help her.

"Yes, their parents might have broken the law, but the children
deserve help and support," Ms. Lucas-Sinclair said of the youngsters
she wants to help. "First, because they're innocent and they can't
fend for themselves. And second, they will be your children's spouses,
their neighbors or, God forbid, the person carjacking you 10 years
from now."

Ms. Lucas-Sinclair, who has a degree in public relations and lives
outside Atlanta with her husband, who is a computer database manager,
and their two children, said in an interview that the film about her
father provided a chance to call attention to her Web site,

The name was inspired by her love for "The Wizard of Oz"; the site
lists resources that are already available for the children of inmates.

"I thought to myself, I have a great opportunity to use some of the
publicity my dad is getting to bring the spotlight to this issue," she
said. "Yeah, I would have to put myself out there, but because there's
a good reason to do it, it was worth it. There was no other benefit to
come out and say I'm Frank Lucas's daughter."

Nicole Barnes's curiosity about Frank Lucas was whetted by the
publicity surrounding "American Gangster." When she searched for his
name online, she stumbled across a Glamour magazine article about Ms.
Lucas-Sinclair's life and her project.

"I was searching the Internet about Frank Lucas, not knowing he even
had a daughter," Nicole Barnes recalled. "I felt really compelled to
contact her. It was the first time I had read anything that sounded so
familiar to my childhood."

Mr. Barnes, like Mr. Lucas, became a witness for the government in
return for a reduced sentence. Mr. Barnes and his daughters are living
under new identities in the federal witness protection program.

Ms. Lucas-Sinclair said that she was certain of Ms. Barnes's identity
when they exchanged details of their mothers' imprisonment.

All three daughters are in their 30s. They say their fathers approve
of their continuing conversations about assisting other children.

"I think our father felt it was something we felt we needed to do,"
Ebony Barnes said. "He trusted our decision. He didn't think of it as
his daughters contacting the daughter of his rival."

Ms. Lucas-Sinclair said that in the long run, she hopes to create an
organization in which "mentoring should be part of the solution, but
not the solution itself," adding: "It's not only taking the kid on
Sunday for ice cream and a ballgame. The children need financial
support for themselves, for their caregivers, help with homework and
even with somebody doing the girls' hair."

The three women say they understand how much death and destruction
their fathers inflicted. They express empathy for the victims and
their families. They also offer their own particular

"I honestly don't think that my dad thought about the human cost," Ms.
Lucas-Sinclair said. "He was thinking about it as a business
experience. I honestly don't think he did this with the intention of
hurting anybody. He says he was young, he just wanted to make money
and that's the only way he thought he could. His mentor was Bumpy
Johnson; he didn't have Earl Graves taking him under his wing."
Ellsworth Johnson, known as Bumpy, was a Harlem gangster; Earl G.
Graves is the founder of Black Enterprise magazine and a wealthy
businessman and philanthropist.

Similarly, Ebony Barnes said that "it's hard for us to think of 'Mr.
Untouchable' as being the same person as our dad." She added, "By the
time we were old enough to understand what he had done, we had so many
positive experiences with him."

What if her own children, when they are old enough and learn the truth
about their grandfather, decided to emulate him?

"I would say maybe Grandpa did it, but look at all the effects that it
had," Ebony Barnes said. "It affected a lot of people's lives. For
anyone to say that lifestyle is glamorous, there's obviously negative
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