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Some Having a Hard Time Embracing New Martin Luther King Statue

BOSTON—The new Dr. Martin Luther King sculpture in Boston Common called “The Embrace” has not exactly been received with open arms.

Unveiled this past Martin Luther King Day weekend, the behemoth 20-foot-tall bronze has been likened to male genitalia, including by some of King’s own family members, and mocked on the polite end of criticism as a $10 million waste—in reference to its whopping price tag.

Seneca Scott, a cousin of Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King’s wife, called it an “egregious example of the woke machine’s callousness and vanity” and found the piece and its price tag offensive to black Americans who need jobs to pay bills, keep food on the table, and pay for rising energy costs.

Epoch Times Photo
Some people said that they couldn’t figure out exactly what “The Embrace” was. (Alice Giordano)

She said she considers it no “accident” that the sculpture appears to have woke influences.

“Hopefully, it will show more black people that these progressives just aren’t in this for our benefit,” Scott wrote two days after its unveiling in a Jan. 14 article for Compass Magazine.

The sculpture, which sits within a bird’s eye view of Boston’s bustling Tremont Street, is drawing curious onlookers by the droves, all with their own contrasting views.

Junior Leandre, a 30-year-old black man, and his friend Esteban Alonzo, who work in Boston, told The Epoch Times the day they journeyed out to see “The Embrace” about the problem they have with the statue is more that it has “no context.”

“I think if they put a mini statue of Coretta and MLK near it, that would make this easier to understand and appreciate,” said Alonzo who together with Leandre called the sculpture more of an “abstract.”

Standing nearby was Bostonian Bill Bulkeley, a retired business writer for Wall Street Journal. He likened it to a “bicuspid,” saying he liked the “message, just not the artwork.”

Martin Luther King III, the legendary leader’s son, has defended the 19-ton work, saying “opinions are like butts—everyone has one.”

Epoch Times Photo
Another angle of “The Embrace.” (Alice Giordano)

King told CNN that he is thrilled to have a statue that represents the love shared between his legendary father and mother, which is what artist Hank Willis Thomas says the Boston sculpture represents.

To be specific, Willis, who is African American, has said that set out to specifically capture the 1964 embrace between King and Corretta Scott King in celebration of the news he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in the civil rights movement for racial equality for black Americans.

The couple’s inescapably endearing embrace was captured and immortalized by press photographers.

While more associated with their home in Montgomery, Alabama, the Kings have deep ties to Boston. It is where they met and went to college—King to Boston University and Scott King—to the New England Conservatory.

A year after winning the Nobel Prize, King led a famous walk from Boston’s historically black neighborhood of Roxbury to Boston Common.

The famous park alongside the adjoining Boston Garden is home to many iconic statues including its world-famous “Duckling Sculpture”, a gaggle of bronze ducklings and their mother created by sculptor Nancy Schon in 1987 in celebration of the 1941 children’s book “Make Way For Ducklings.”

Like those statues, several city review boards were involved in choosing Willis’s design and the artist submitted detailed renderings of the sculpture he had in mind.

According to a 2019 press release, The King Boston Art Committee chose it out of 126 applications. It was among the final five designs displayed at the Boston Public Library for public input.

Ultimately, “The Embrace” design was picked by what the press release described as experts ranging from renowned educators to visual artists, and art curators.

Reaction Not Pretty

Reaction on social media to the unveiling of the sculpture was not pretty.

“Is there any angle where this doesn’t look pornographic?” posted one Bostonian on Twitter.

Another Twitter user called upon people to stop criticizing the statue, posting that it was “the public discourse was disheartening, especially from those within the black community.”

“No matter what your opinion may be … tearing down another black man who’s genuinely a great artist and good human is gross,” he tweeted.

That set off a hailstorm of angry tweets about being asked to withhold criticism because the artist happens to be black.

“It’s a horrible visual representation. Just ’cause he black don’t mean he is unable to receive criticism,” a young black man posted back.

“This is some emperor’s new clothes-level denial. This sculpture is a slap in the face to the amazing legacy of MLK and to his family. Like how do you look at this and think “that’s a great artist!” It is horrific,” a woman who is white wrote.

Some of the harshest criticism of the sculpture’s physical appearance came from Seneca Scott who referred to “The Embrace” as a “wasted $10 million”.

Scott, who held nothing back in expressing her disdain for “The Embrace” also wrote, “so now Boston has a big bronze penis statue that’s supposed to represent black love as its purest and most devotional.”

Blessing in Disguise

“Still, the Boston debacle could be a blessing in disguise, by exposing the insidiousness of astroturfed woke movements that have come to dominate black America,” she said.

To this former Bostonian who has been walking through Boston Common for more than a half-century, the giant, shiny bronze, on just presence alone, will admittedly take some time to get used to.

It’s a dramatic change of scenery to the aged statue of George Washington and the world-famous “Make Way For Ducklings” artwork, so popular the ducklings’ tops have been smoothed out by so many children sitting on them.

But Pam Roberts and her husband Scott McInturff who walked three miles from their Brookline home to get a glimpse at it, perhaps put it best about “The Embrace.”

While they disagree on the sculpture, they both agreed its controversy has accomplished something King would have appreciated, they told The Epoch Times.

“It’s definitely a conversation starter,” said Roberts, “it’s bringing people out to have civil discussions over something they don’t agree with.”

Alice Giordano

Alice Giordano is a freelance reporter for The Epoch Times. She is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and the New England bureau of The New York Times.

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