Anti-crime activist’s memoir tracks his difficult ascent

Updated: 2014-01-27T05:01:32Z


The Kansas City Star

Riccardo C. Lucas opens his memoir with a murder.

He’s 4 years old, walking with his beloved uncle, visiting folks along Kansas City’s 12th Street. Two shots blast.

My uncle never made a sound as he let my hand go, Lucas writes. I saw all the blood covering his chest. As he looked in my eyes he started coughing blood and I started screaming in sudden terror.

Most know Lucas for decades of anti-crime work, not his decade in prison.

But he calls his memoir “Programmed for Murder: SOS” for good reason. The manuscript tells of living in the Wayne Miner projects. Those were the times you would have to pray no one would try to jack you up or beat you up in the stairway for recreation. He was surrounded by relatives who were loving and scrappy fighters, and a range of other characters: petty and major criminals, alcoholics and drug dealers.

Lucas’ hustle was robbery, a simple stick up man. He earned a slew of juvenile charges. Fighting was common. One bout left him with a punctured lung. At 17 years old I was tired, he wrote of the day he lay bleeding. You’re going to end up dead or in the penitentiary, ... you’re dumb, you’re stupid, you’re a thug, every negative sermon I had ever heard floated in my mind.

He was soon serving time for robbery, certified as an adult. My first impression of the prison was how cold and emotionless it felt. Eerily, it reminded me of the projects.

He writes of the brutality of prison, of witnessing a murder with inmates descending with the swiftness of a pack of wild dogs on prey while the victim let out a blood curdling scream that I will never forget, it was as if the knife point hit his soul.

He was released in the early ’90s, and he says prison time saved him from crack, which had ravaged the urban core. Government and foundations were trying to help, funding groups like the now defunct Project Neighborhood. It was difficult to find work with a record, so Lucas checked out the new group. They were speaking as though nobody could approach young black males, as if they were so diabolical that they could not understand what was taking place around them.

He begged for a job with the program. Lucas was hired as a community mobilizer.

Lucas talked for years about writing his story. He plans on self-publishing. If you never been lost you don’t know what it means to be rescued from your misguided world perceptions.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to

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