Monument dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King provokes ridicule and criticism

(CNN) — The barrage of criticism came shortly after a monument intended to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King was unveiled in Boston.

The 20-foot-tall, 40-foot-wide statue “The Embrace” was unveiled Friday on Boston Common, where King delivered a speech on April 23, 1965 to a crowd of 22,000. The statue was inspired by a photograph of King and Scott King embracing after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

The work, designed by Brooklyn-based conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas, only shows the couple’s arms during the embrace and not their heads, drawing criticism and ridicule online. Some people described the monument as hideous or disrespectful, while others posted memes and said it resembled a sexual act.

Seneca Scott, a community organizer in Oakland, California, and a cousin of Scott King, told CNN that the statue was an insult to his family. He previously described it as a “metal masturbatory tribute” in an essay he published Compact Magazine.

“If you can look at it from all angles, and it’s probably two people hugging, it’s four hands. It is not the missing heads that represent the atrocity that other people attribute to this; it’s a stump that looked like a penis. That’s a joke,” Scott told CNN.

martin luther king monument

The memorial sculpture on Boston Common has drawn mixed criticism online and from some family members. (Credit: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

However, Martin Luther King III said Monday that he was grateful to be able to see a statue depicting the love story of his parents and their relationship. While some people have negative views of the monument, King III told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday that the monument.

“I think it’s a great representation of bringing people together,” King said. “I think the artist did a great job. I am satisfied. Yes, he did not have the images of my mom and dad, but he represents something that unites people.

“And in this moment, day and age, when there is so much division, we need symbols that speak of coming together,” he added.

CNN has reached out to Thomas for comment on the reaction to “The Embrace.” In his newsletter, Thomas said earlier this month that the piece was not only a monument to King and Scott King “but a monument to love and the power that it has.”

A representative for Embrace Boston, a nonprofit racial and economic justice group behind the monument’s creation, declined to comment on the criticism, deferring to King III’s comments.

“The Embrace is intended to inspire visitors to reflect on the values ​​of racial and economic justice espoused by the Kings,” the group said of the memorial on its website.

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