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Tipsheet

Boston's MLK Sculpture Is a NSFW Disgrace to a Great American

Jacquelyn Martin

Regardless of his politics, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great American, an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. He didn’t deserve what he got in Boston, as the city unveiled a new sculpture commemorating the man’s contributions and place in American history. Unlike his memorial in DC, the Boston sculpture isn’t of the man. It’s called ‘The Embrace,’ inspired by a photo of the civil rights leader and his wife, Coretta, but you’d never know it because the artist decided to construct this thing comprised of pieces of them—it’s their arms. You can see how this artistic venture could hit an iceberg. When it was revealed over the weekend, it drew head scratches, ire, and laughter since it looked like something else, something unsafe for work (via CBS News): 

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This past summer, workers at the Walla Walla Foundry, in the state of Washington, fashioned giant fingers, arms, hands, and a bracelet, to capture a shining moment in history. All the pieces are now assembled, and this Friday, one of the largest memorials dedicated to racial equality will be unveiled in America's oldest public park, Boston Common. 

It's called "The Embrace," and to design it, Hank Willis Thomas pored over hundreds of images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife, Coretta Scott King. "There was an intimacy that I saw that wasn't really highlighted often," Thomas said. "Often when you do look closely at pictures, they're holding each other's hands." 

One photo in particular got the sculptor's attention: the reaction when Rev. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. "I just love that image, him hugging her with such glee and such joy and such pride, and I saw the pride on her face. And I recognized that this was teamwork. And all of his weight in that picture is, like, on her." 

And so, rather than depicting whole figures, Thomas, along with architects from the MASS Design Group, decided to represent a specific moment of intimacy, depicting only their arms and hands.

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It doesn’t look like that—it’s reproductive organs. And members of the King family are incensed over the piece, as they should. It’s a disgrace to this man, his family, and his legacy, though some of the commentaries were funny (via WaPo): 

Many took particular issue with the fact that the Kings were not depicted in full. 

“Given that I am not White, I am safe from ANY charges of racism for saying the MLK embrace statue is aesthetically unpleasant. The famous photo should have been a FULL statue of the couple and their embrace. What a huge swing and miss in honoring the Dr & Mrs King. SAD!” tweeted Boston Herald columnist Rasheed N. Walters.

“Show me a white man that was honored with a statue of only two of his limbs,” tweeted comedian Javann Jones. 

“That MLK statue looks obscene from certain angles, but when you see the whole thing you realize it’s supposed to depict the result of Martin Luther King Jr. and [Coretta] Scott King having gone through the teleporter in The Fly together,” tweeted the Daily Wire’s Frank J. Fleming. 

Boston, redo this war crime of an art piece.

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