Onlookers were confused by the unveiling of a 20-foot-tall bronze statue honoring Martin Luther King Jr. in Boston on Friday. The sculpture, known as “The Embrace” is meant to portray the moment MLK and his wife Coretta Scott King hugged after he learned he had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
However, the $10 million sculpture only depicts the couple’s arms – without heads – leaving some confused by the unique statue.
One Twitter user complained: “The original photo this inspired was beautiful and perfect. Why not just honor that with a replica instead of this horrible odd weirdly sexualized bronze blob…”
Others on Twitter highlighted that the statue appeared sexualised “from every angle” and lamented that it did not portray the Kings in full. One added: “I’m so confused, why remove the head?!”
British rapper Zuby said simply: “This is awful.”
Others were moved by the piece, which was unveiled Friday at the Freedom Plaza of the Boston Common at an event attended by a crowd including some of the Kings’ family members.
One Twitter user said: “Finally some feel-good news. Beautiful sculpture. Thanks for sharing!”
MLK and Loretta Scott King met in Boston in the 1950s, and the civil rights leader received his doctorate at Boston University.
“They both loved this city because of its proud heritage of the abolitionist movement and its unique intellectual and educational resources,” the Kings’ son, Martin Luther King III said at the unveiling.
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He added: “Indeed, Boston became the place where they forged a partnership that would change America and make a powerful contribution to the Black freedom struggle. That’s what I see in this beautiful monument.”
Yolanda Renee King, the couple’s granddaughter, said she was challenged to “carry forward” the couple’s “unfinished work”.
EmbraceBoston, the organization behind the sculpture, said that the placement of the monument was significant.
Boston Common is America’s oldest park and sees millions of visitors and native Bostonians travel through every year.
Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of EmbraceBoston, said: “I think Boston has this reputation of being this city of heroes and abolitionists, like WEB Du Bois and Frederick Douglass, simultaneously with this reputation of not being friendly and in some cases being described as racist.
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“So there’s this tension between these two images of Boston. Having the memorial there is part of our intention to transform our city’s perspective.”
The organization is also raising money to build an economic justice center in the Boston neighborhood where MLK preached.
Martin Luther King Jr Day is a bank holiday in America, observed on the third Monday of January – January 16 in 2023.
Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, however, the bank holiday was first observed in 1986.