A Martin Luther King Jr. statue was unveiled just days before the annual holiday commemorating the civil rights activist. Since then, the tribute sculpture has sparked online debates about its appearance and representation.
Titled The Embrace, the artwork highlights a hug MLK and his wife, Coretta Scott King, shared in 1964. Martin and Coretta embraced after learning he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The bronze artwork features the couple’s intertwined arms but no heads. Artist Hank Willis Thomas created the sculpture, adding details like Coretta’s pearl bracelet, King’s cuffed suit jacket, and wedding bands.
The activist’s son Martin Luther King III praised the statue in a recent conversation with CNN‘s Don Lemon. He revealed his 14-year-old said, “it represents love 360.”
“It’s subjective. Everyone has their opinions. But opinions are like butts. Everybody’s got one, but my issue is, I think that’s a huge representation of bringing people together.” He added, “I think the artist did a great job. I’m satisfied. Yeah, it didn’t have my mom and dad’s images, but it represents something that brings people together. And in this time of day and age, when there’s so much division, we need symbols that talk about bringing us together.”
Later, he added that “people will be debating about it” for years. But ultimately, King Jr. III said he’s “grateful” that it highlights both his parents.
“It also represents mom and dad. Many monuments are done just around dad, but it represents the kind of relationship they had, working together, and they were a partnership.”
‘Embrace’ Statue Artist Has No Plans To Change It Despite Heavy Online Criticism
The $10 million statue was unveiled in Boston on Friday (Jan. 13), with photos hitting the net soon after. And the mixed reactions haven’t stopped rolling in. There’s been plenty of comparisons to sexual acts and body parts, including the performance of oral sex and male genitalia. Others have labeled the lack of heads as disrespectful or incomplete.
Keep scrolling to read some of the feedback, including the artist’s response:
That statue is ugly. Y’all know what I’m talking about.
— Ⓜ️ Bearded Thanos (@iStalkPhatGirls) January 16, 2023
They gon have to take this statue down 💀💀💀 https://t.co/1OFQUC19LC
— Luvvie (@Luvvie) January 15, 2023
Y’all this the right angle for the MLK statue. Those other pics WASN’T it 🥴. pic.twitter.com/nACrKeDc6B
— Shania Barr, LPC 💜 (@TherapistForUs) January 16, 2023
every angle i’ve seen of this statue is terrible.
a bald man eating cooch?
a pair of hands holding an oversized d*ck?
they definitely missed the mark. pic.twitter.com/b5prJ1oIVF
— denver sean. (@dnvrsn) January 15, 2023
🗣$10 million spent on an MLK & Coretta Scott King statue and most ppl have no idea what this statue is supposed to be‼️
Why not take that $10 million and invest in black neighborhoods in Boston, instead❓️https://t.co/8gEVHXV1pI pic.twitter.com/wkA5xf2uhf
— Sabby Sabs (@SabbySabs2) January 16, 2023
Why does a statue of Dr King and Coretta Scott King need to be abstract in the first place?
— David Dennis Jr. (@DavidDTSS) January 17, 2023
Idc what angle it’s from.
I think it’s weird to have a headless statue of Dr.MLK (especially considering his death)
— ToraShae (@BlackMajiik) January 17, 2023
Boston’s Embrace statue perfectly represents how White America loves to butcher MLK.
Cherry-picking quotes about love and non-violence.
While ignoring his radicalism, anti-capitalism, his fierce critiques of white moderates.
MLK- in his fullness– is still too much for them. pic.twitter.com/6yw8pyQgFb
— Karen Attiah IS ON INSTAGRAM @karenattiah (@KarenAttiah) January 16, 2023
Despite the mocking, Thomas, the artist, confirmed that he’s happy with it. He added that he has no plans to change it during a discussion on CNN This Morning.
Hank Willis Thomas said:
“This is a piece that was selected by the people of Boston. This is not a ‘Hank just came up with something.’ Thousands of people worked on this, thousands of people actually put it together and no one saw this perverse perspective. And I mean to bring that to the King’s legacy and to dictate the making of art and the celebration of them is really strange for me.”
Coretta Scott King’s Cousin Slams The Statue, Comparing It To Sexual Acts And Genitalia
Meanwhile, Coretta’s cousin Seneca Scott has voiced his strong opposition against the statue to several outlets and on his Twitter platform. Still, the former mayoral candidate for Oakland admitted to CNN that it resembles an embrace when viewed from multiple angles. However, Scott added, “it’s a stump that looked like a penis.”
He doubled down on the sexual reference in an op-ed for compactmag.com, saying the statue resembles “a pair of hands hugging a beefy penis than a special moment shared by the iconic couple.”
“Ten million dollars were wasted to create a masturbatory metal homage to my legendary family members–one of the all-time greatest American families. Still, the Boston debacle could be a blessing in disguise by exposing the insidiousness of astroturfed woke movements that have come to dominate black America: How could anyone fail to see that this was a major d**k move (pun intended) that brings very few, if any, tangible benefits to struggling Black families?”
In a phone interview with New York Post on Sunday, Scott slammed mainstream media for their coverage of what he called an insult to the Black community.
“If you had showed that statue to anyone in the hood, they’d have been like, ‘no absolutely not,” Scott said.
Seneca Scott, cousin of Coretta Scott King, reacts to the recently-unveiled statue dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Boston. pic.twitter.com/UPJQURGbOT
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) January 17, 2023