Imagine Harlem in the late 1970s and 1980s, everything looked like 125th and Lexington Ave to the 10th power. During those two decades, drugs hit the community hard and many of its victims were pregnant women. While drugs swept through the neighborhood, an unlikely American hero emerged named Mother Hale.
In 1969, after raising her three children, providing daycare services and raising 40 foster children, Clara McBride Hale was ready to retire. However, her retirement plans were derailed when she discovered a heroin addicted baby left on her doorstep. She welcomed the baby into her home and that’s when her legacy began.
Word quickly spread throughout the Harlem community that there was a kind ole’ woman on 146th Street who takes in drug sick babies. Within six months, Mother Hale had over 22 children to nurse back to health in her 5-room apartment.
With the drug epidemic coupled with the HIV/AIDS virus crippling Harlem, community leaders came together to helped Mother Hale purchase and renovate a brownstone on 122nd. The brownstone was called Hale’s House. Untrained, widowed, and with a high school education, Mother Hale used her love help over 1,000 children. Her philosophy was to heal the drug sick babies and reunite them with their parents. This philosophy proved to be successful because “99 percent of the time, she was able to reunite a cleaned-up child with a cleaned-up mother.”
Mother Hale’s legacy was so prolific that famous people like Martin Lawrence and even that Donald Trump guy donated funds to make her memorial sculptor possible. Additionally, President Ronald Reagan honored Mother Hale as an American hero in his State of the Union Address in 1985.
Although the Hale House is no longer open, Mother Hale’s legacy and influence lives on at the The Mother Hale Learning Center. Recently, the brownstone was purchased. and its future, like a lot of Harlem historical places, is unknown. I urge you to visit this beautiful memorial on 122nd St. between Lenox and Adam Clayton Powell.
Go take a look at Mother Hale’s arms reaching out for those in need of love. Remember her. She is Harlem. She is a true American Hero.
All photos of the statue are taken by Latoya Coleman