A King memorial that embraces a joyful truth
Over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend, many of us in the Boston area were hearing about or visiting the new landmark downtown: a huge bronze sculpture of intertwined arms called The Embrace. It honors not only Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, but also the love story and partnership between him and Coretta Scott King. The two met in Boston at BU Divinity School, so their union is a fitting choice for a Boston Common monument. I’ve been out of town so I haven’t had a chance to see it in person yet, but I’ve been moved by the unveiling events, the press coverage, and many reflections from folks who have gone to see it.
Sculptor Hank Willis Thomas has critiqued the standard approach to monuments that honor the past as somber and warlike. “As a society, we have a negativity bias,” he said. The Embrace represents Martin and Coretta’s marriage and their connection to Boston with an unapologetic positivity.
In that same interview, Marie St. Fleur, a former executive director of the foundation that commissioned The Embrace, added: “It celebrates that for us, as communities of color, as Black people, that we are more than just our struggle. We are love. We are joy. We are all of that.”
This resonates so much with me. There is nothing like the laughter, community, generosity, and celebration of a group of Black people. How refreshing to honor Black history in America not for the oppression we have faced, but for the spirit we have always had within us.
I love that Boston’s visitors and residents alike will be reminded of this just steps from the African Meeting House and the 54th Regiment Memorial. As we continue the work of bringing about the Beloved Community that the Kings dreamed of, let’s remember the love at the heart of equity and justice. We can be brave and radical like the Kings without scolding or punishing one another. Let’s find and hold up those moments when pursuing diversity and inclusion is more like an embrace.