Why is there so much outrage over the new $10 million statue honoring MLK and his wife?

Mildred Europa Taylor January 17, 2023
Called “The Embrace”, the 20-foot tall and 40-foot wide monument was unveiled on Friday in Boston. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The eldest son of civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King has defended a new monument honoring his parents amid criticism of the sculpture. Called “The Embrace”, the 20-foot tall and 40-foot wide monument was unveiled on Friday in Boston. The $10 million bronze statue marks the hug that King and Coretta Scott shared after King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

It was designed by Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group to be placed in Boston Common, the oldest public park in the U.S. But mixed reactions have greeted its unveiling. Many have mocked the statue, saying it looks like a sex act. Others were not happy that the faces of the two civil rights leaders were left out of the design, saying the current sculpture is disrespectful.

Some relatives of King and Coretta Scott also expressed their disgust after the monument was unveiled. Seneca Scott, a cousin of Coretta Scott, said the monument was “insulting” to his family.

“Ten million dollars were wasted to create a masturbatory metal homage to my legendary family members—one of the all-time greatest American families,” Scott wrote in an essay for Compact Magazine. It “looks more like a pair of hands hugging a beefy penis than a special moment shared by the iconic couple,” Seneca Scott wrote.

“Melt it down,” he also wrote on Twitter. “I still can’t get over how they tried to play my fam,” Scott shared in another tweet.

But Martin Luther King III, the son of Coretta Scott and King, told CNN on Monday that he was satisfied with the sculpture. “Yeah, it didn’t have my mom and dad’s images but it represents something that brings people together. And in this day and age, when there’s so much division, we need symbols that talk about bringing us together,” he said on Monday when the U.S. was marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

He also said that he is moved by the monument because it represents the love story of his parents in Boston and also the work of his mom.

“Many monuments are done just around dad. But it represents the kind of relationship they had working together, and they were a partnership,” Martin Luther King III said.

The Boston Art Commission and Boston Landmarks Commission selected Thomas’ design from a list of 125 designs in 2021. “When I submitted the proposal, I didn’t even think that we really had a chance,” Thomas told NBC. “By the time it was approved, I guess I’ve just been on autopilot like, OK — how do I just not get in the way of history?”

Mayor Michelle Wu told the Boston Globe that the statue was “to open our eyes to the injustice of racism and bring more people into the movement for equity.”

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