History was made on the Boston Common Friday as The Embrace monument was unveiled, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King and the love they shared with the world.
Dignitaries from around Massachusetts joined with the King family at the unveiling of the 20-ton statue on the Boston Common, where the Kings had their first date and not far from the Parkman Bandstand, where King spoke back in 1965.
Martin Luther King III, his wife Arndrea Waters King and their daughter Yolanda King spoke at Friday’s unveiling of “The Embrace,” a memorial honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
“Let this monument be a reminder to us, even here, that history remembers our embraces best of all, and that we have in us still the capacity and the call to love,” former Gov. Deval Patrick said ahead of the unveiling.
Speakers, including the King family, noted how the monument physically embodies the legacy of the Kings, whose legendary activism and leadership in Birmingham, Selma, Washington and across the nation brought the civil rights movement to new heights.
“I was talking with my parents about how this is almost love 360, because this monument is dedicated to their love, and we really need more love in the world,” said Yolanda King, the teenage granddaughter of the Kings.
NBC10 Boston’s Latoyia Edwards was so impressed by Yolanda King’s speech at Friday’s unveiling of ‘The Embrace’ that she called her back up on the stage for an impromptu interview.
Her father, Martin Luther King III, noted that he owes his existence to Boston, since it’s where his parents met.
“Boston became the place where they forged a partnership where they changed America,” he said.
Much of the event was a family affair — Hank Willis Thomas, the artist who designed The Embrace, brought his toddler on stage and gave her a chance to speak as well. She had several messages for the crowd: “Happy New Year,” “I love you” and, after a dramatic pause, “Boo!”
Thomas had a message for the Kings as well: “The only thing that was in our hearts when we made this piece was to honor you and your family and to make you proud.”
The process to honor the Kings began five years ago – with an idea and competition between 126 artists conceptualizing what a monument to MLK would mean. The finished product shows the intertwined arms of the Kings, inspired by the photo of the couple smiling together moments after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
A brand new monument to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, will be unveiled Friday.
An interfaith procession into the through the Boston Public Garden and into the Common was part of the unveiling. Rabbi Michael Shire said the Jewish community aligns itself with the Kings’ movement, just as Rabbi Abraham Heschel did when he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.
At a viewing area set up for the ceremony, Hyde Park resident Nasir Ali said he was attending the ceremony to be a among the people.
“People see this statue, that might make them want to give an embrace for the love of life,” he said.
PHOTOS: The Embrace Unveiled on Boston Common
Embrace Boston’s executive director, Imari Paris Jeffries, said ahead of the ceremony that it’s the meaning behind the actual embrace that he hopes resonates with people experiencing it.
“We wanted to get away from this great person version of statues and we wanted people to imagine that those are their arms, those are the arms of someone who has embraced them, those are the arms of someone that they want to embrace, they have embraced,” Paris Jeffries said. “It’s a memorial to honor the Kings and those other leaders, but it’s also a memorial for all of us.”
The 22-foot-tall bronze sculpture, sitting on a circular granite plaza, is much more than just a monument to MLK’s life and legacy. The monument’s plaza also memorializes 65 names of other Boston leaders.
The 22-foot high bronze sculpture, sitting on a circular granite plaza, is much more than just a monument to MLK’s life and legacy.
According to the principal architect involved in bringing The Embrace to life, the main message is love.
“What I love about it is you can actually feel their embrace, you can get inside this, it’s occupiable, so the idea that we can kind of feel that message, feel their love, I think is really inspiring,” MASS Design Group principal architect Jonathan Evans said. “Our hope is that it becomes in some ways kind of a call to action, this idea that inspires us to take that message further and keep going.”
‘Embrace: The Kings’ is a moving half-hour special about The Embrace monument being unveiled on Boston Common honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, their love story in Boston, and their fight for equity for all of us in Boston and around the world. It’s the catalyst for how we look at everything around social justice. Brought to you in partnership with The Boston Globe.
The senior pastor at the 12th Baptist Church in Roxbury, where Dr. King worshiped, said it’s an honor to have The Embrace as part of the fabric of Boston.
“To have the emblem of one who came through our church and was a part of our family for some time is just an amazing reminder,” Rev. Dr. Willie Bodrick II said. “I’m also excited because Coretta Scott King is going to be remembered and in doing that great work we know we have an opportunity to put in the Common a symbol to remind us of who we can be as a city and what work we have to do.”
You can watch special coverage of the unveiling of The Embrace on NBC10 Boston from 12 to 3 p.m. Friday.
NBC10 Boston’s Bianca Beltrán contributed to this report.