Clarence 2X was born, Clarence Hardy Jr. on October 28,1934 to his mother, Alethea. The East New York native spent most of his youth between New York and North Carolina. Growing up without much money or resources, the shy young man often turned to the streets for support and guidance. During his teen years, he attended Westinghouse Tech. By the time he was in high school, he had joined The Bishops, a gang. He learned how to make zip guns - an untraceable weapon made from a car aerial. This activity, would later get him sent to a reform school called Warwick, a place in the country where he lived in a cottage for about eight months. And finally, Clarence found himself in Wrayburn Prison for three and a half years where he was introduced to the teachings of the Nation of Islam by a preacher who offered an interesting understanding of how Black people came to be in the difficult situations they often found themselves in. As he learned more about the religion, Clarence became more and more attracted to the teachings of Elijah Mohammed. In the 1960s he became a regular visitor to Temple No. 7 in Harlem. During this time, Clarence drove down to Baltimore with Malcolm X, then a star in the religion. However, he did not follow Malcolm’s break with Elijah Mohammed nor his subsequent assassination. Clarence tried to interest family and friends including his mother and his girlfriend in the religion. Eventually, under the influence of the Nation of Islam, he changed his name to Clarence 2X.
Later on, Clarence returned to the streets and became involved with numbers and drugs along with numerous arrests. Finally, he was given a ten-year prison sentence for being involved in a drug deal in Boston in which he was entrapped trying to sell $25,000 worth of drugs to an agent. Clarence later discovered that his lawyer actually worked for a Mafia boss and had agreed to sell out Clarence as a way of earning credit for his real employer. During his stay in prison, Clarence worked in the sign shop and acquired a variety of worthwhile skills and discipline.
When he was paroled in 1983, a whole second life began for Clarence. He became an avid businessman and got involved in various ventures. He sold discount shoes, but then his stock ran out. He then moved to selling jewelry, pictures and books at the end of Nostrand Avenue near Fulton Street. During this time he often visited The Regent Theater. It was when the theater was acquired by Judge John L. Phillips Jr. that Clarence’s life took yet another decisive turn. One day when he was walking by, Judge Phillips called out to him, “You better get on board,” and so began a partnership which, in a sense, is still going on today. Judge Phillips acquired The Regent to promote a vision he had of salvation for Black people. He called the theater, “The Slave Theater” and he acquired a second property which is where The Black Lady Theatre exists today. He wished to instruct Black people about their heritage in Africa, also about the worst crime known to man which is slavery, and use that understanding to guide them into a new bright future. Judge Phillips and Clarence worked together closely. For a while, Clarence acted as his collection agent for various properties the Judge owned. As Judge Phillips’ influence spread, he acquired enemies, and in 2001 they struck against him. He was kidnapped from his office at 155 Herkimer Street, and held in various institutions for the mentally ill. Clarence made many attempts to get him released, but all of them failed. Guardians were appointed for Judge Phillips and they disposed of much of his wealth. Clarence did the best he could, but he was up against a corrupt legal system. An article in The New York Times entitled, “Faded Dreams and Lost Fortune” describes the epic battle. One day, Clarence was with him in an elevator in the hospital where he had been taken, when Judge Phillips collapsed. His last words were, “Help me up, Hardy.” At last, Judge Phillips died in 2008, leaving behind a legacy that Clarence would continue. In fact, Clarence has helped him up.
As a owner of the corporation Judge Phillips created, Clarence, along with his son, Omar Hardy gained control of the sites of the two theaters. The Slave Theater has been torn down illegally, but father and son intend to rebuild it, and The Black Lady Theatre is fully restored and has a vibrant program devoted to realizing Judge Phillips’ vision.