MLK “The Embrace” monument unveiled on the Boston Common


NBC Broadcast

“The Embrace”

By Mariyam Quaisar and Kevin Guinan

“The Embrace” memorial was revealed to the public on the Boston Common to commemorate the love and solidarity between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, the Friday before MLK Day.  

After planning for more than five years, the 22-foot bronze statue designed by Hank Willis Thomas was uncovered. The monument depicts two sets of arms caught in an embrace, modeled after an image of Dr. King and his wife hugging after he won the Nobel Prize in 1964. 

A plethora of dignitaries were in attendance to honor the Kings and their perseverance in the fight for social justice. During NBC’s live stream of the event, anchored by Emerson alumna Latoyia Edwards, an array of speakers shared their respect for Dr. King and his wife, including son Martin Luther King III, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and Mayor Michelle Wu. 

“It is a great pleasure to be a part of this unveiling ceremony for the memorial, which truly signifies the bond of love shared by my parents, Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King,” Martin Luther King III said on the ceremony live stream. “And whenever I’ve come to Boston in the past, I’ve always felt a powerful bond of solidarity with this first great American city.”

Boston is where the Kings met and decided to create a family together, King III said, joking that he owes his “very existence” to Boston.

Arndrea Waters King, daughter-in-law of the esteemed couple, shared a heartfelt tribute to Coretta, describing “The Embrace” as “an embodiment and reminder that the power of Black women can no longer be denied.”

Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s 13-year-old granddaughter, also spoke at the event, and although her grandparents died before she was born, she said she feels she knows them well because of all the stories she’s heard.

“I love this monument,” she said on the ceremony live stream. “I also see the love and strength and unity in these hands and how they symbolize a beautiful marriage and partnership, and it was one that changed the world.”

“The Embrace” not only honors the Kings’ undeniable fight for social and racial equity, but is also an ode to their love story that began in Boston. More so, the monument’s plaza memorializes 65 names of other Boston leaders. 

However, the monument has received criticism online, most often based on the depiction of the couple’s arms without featuring their heads. CNN reported that “some people described it as hideous or disrespectful while others posted memes and said it resembled a sex act.”

First-year journalism major Caroline White said she heard a remark saying the monument “looked phallic.”

“It’s a shame that something that was supposed to be so influential is being taken as a joke,” White said.

First-year business of creative enterprises major Kate Schembri said she was “confused” when she first saw the monument, but her opinion changed once she viewed it as “more of an abstract piece.”

“Without reading up on the statue, it can be really hard to appreciate,” Schembri said.

One onlooker, Dara Kissel, said it’s important to consider the context surrounding it, “especially considering there’s statues of confederate figures still standing in the South.”

“The sculpture shows how [Dr. King] wasn’t holding that burden alone,” Kissel said. “Behind every man is a strong woman, and I’m glad women and wives are finally getting represented.”

The legacy of Dr. King, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey said at the unveiling ceremony, “is not only about pursuing a righteous path, to fight indignity and injustice wherever we see it. To me, it is about seeing and recognizing and respecting and uplifting the dignity of every single human being. Let this legacy live on, let it empower us.” 

An interfaith procession through the Boston Public Garden and into the Common also took place.

“Love is creative; meet every situation of life with an abounding love,” designer Thomas said during his speech at the unveiling. 

The memorial is open to the public and a “digital experience” is available online for passersby to listen to audio stories while they view it, according to the Embrace website

“In word and deed he sought to affirm that Black lives matter,” Pressley said at the event. “And in the face of threats, indignity, violence, brutality, and even isolation and marginalization, Dr. King still led with love—love of God, love of humanity, love of justice.”

Bailey Allen contributed reporting.