Next year, the nation’s oldest public park, the Boston Common, will unveil one of the largest memorials in the country dedicated to racial justice: “The Embrace,” designed by the artist Hank Willis Thomas and architects at MASS Design Group.
The monument, a 22-foot-high bronze memorial honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King’s commitment to racial equity, will consist of two pairs of bronze arms, intertwined in a circle. It is based on a photograph of the Kings embracing after Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Thomas is a conceptual artist who has become known in recent years for public sculptures — including those in Brooklyn and at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala. — that explore Black identity and history. He also helped found For Freedoms, an artist-run political action committee that has sponsored public artworks and billboards around the country intended to galvanize political participation and public debate.
Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of King Boston, a private nonprofit organization that has worked with the city of Boston on this project, said, “Our country has been for a long time, and in a really in a rapid way in 2020, having a conversation interrogating the meaning of monuments and memorials.” They are “inherently political and hold meaning, and so we thought about what it would mean for Boston to be a place that is inclusive, and to build one to that,” he added.
“The Embrace” will be constructed on a new plaza, which will be called the 1965 Freedom Rally Memorial Plaza, to commemorate a march the Kings led from the Roxbury neighborhood to the Boston Common. The project has been in the works since 2016. King Boston has raised approximately $12 million and is hoping to raise another $3 million from philanthropists and Boston-based businesses, with an eye on unveiling the work in October 2022.
“At this moment in 2021 we are asking: What would it be for Boston to be the epicenter of civil rights? And of economic and racial justice?” Jeffries said. “We want to imagine that and do that.”
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