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The Mass Media

Ask Bobby #12
September 25, 2023

Embrace Boston gains mixed reactions from the public


The embrace statuelocated in the Boston Commons for MLK. Photo by Olivia Reid (She/Her) / Photography Editor. 

On Friday, Jan. 13, the new Embrace statue was unveiled in the Freedom Plaza of the Boston Common, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech to 22,000 people on April 23, 1965. The statue was inspired by the embrace that King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, shared after King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The unveiling ceremony was attended by Mayor Michelle Wu, The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, The Boston Art Commission and Embrace Boston [1,2].
The artist behind the creation of the Embrace is Hank Willis Thomas, who also had help from the MASS Design group on the Boston Common. The project was initially initiated by the City of Boston’s partnership with Embrace Boston to honor the couple’s history and their time spent in Boston [2].
“The recognition of Coretta Scott King shows that we are a city that will take on the full legacy of Kings and challenge injustice everywhere from a place of love. As we continue our work to ensure Boston is a city for everyone, this memorial is a powerful call to embrace each other more, embrace our nation’s history and embrace what’s possible when we center community,” Mayor Wu said in a statement [2].
The Executive Director of Embrace Boston, Imari Paris Jeffries, also commented on the significance and purpose of the statue. “The Embrace is also about teamwork, and I’d like to thank the many individuals, the City of Boston, and our numerous sponsors, who came together to make this a reality. The Embrace sculpture and the surrounding 1965 Freedom Plaza embodies our organization’s vision of a transformed Boston, inviting all who walk within it to witness the legacy of equity in Boston, and see themselves reflected in its future.” [2]
Once the media took wind of the statue’s release, the public had mixed emotions regarding its looks and purpose.
Many people saw the statue as a positive and inspiring piece, with King and Scott King’s son, Martin Luther King III, one of many praising it. “My parents’ time in Boston is often a forgotten part of their history—and the history of the movement they helped inspire…The Embrace is a commemoration of their relationship and journey and represents the meaningful role Boston served in our history. This is more than just a sculpture; this historic monument is a symbol of the enduring power of love and beacon of hope for so many people across the globe see my parent’s life’s work as a calling to make this world a better place. I hope it will inspire the next generation of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott Kings as we continue the fight for peace, justice, and equity for all,” stated King III [2].
However, not everyone was amenable to the statue’s new placement. Scott King’s cousin, Seneca Scott, described the statue as a “masturbatory metal homage” in an interview with CNN. “If you can look at it from all angles, and it’s probably two people hugging each other, it’s four hands. It’s not the missing heads that’s the atrocity that other people clamp onto that; it’s a stump that looked like a penis. That’s a joke” [1].
Even with all the negative feedback circulating around the statue, Embrace Boston declined to respond to the comments and explained the statue’s intent on their website. “The Embrace is intended to inspire visitors to reflect on the values of racial and economic justice that both Kings espoused” [1].
1.     https://www.cnn.com/style/article/mlk-coretta-embrace-memorial-boston-mocked-reaj-arts/index.html
2.     https://www.boston.gov/news/embrace-unveiled-boston

About the Contributor
Samantha Beady, News Editor