Embracing King's Legacy Work will soon begin on Boston's monument to MLK


In contrast to the protests around Boston’s Abraham Lincoln statue, the King Boston Foundation, which is behind the planned Embrace Statue, has seen a new wave of support since late May.

The Embrace Statue, by artist Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group, will be a 22-foot-high bronze statue portraying four clasped hands. In March 2019, it was chosen by the King Boston Foundation from 126 other submissions as the best design.

Construction on the Embrace Statue and the 1965 Freedom Rally Memorial Plaza is expected to start in September and finish 18 months later near the end of 2021. They will be installed near the Parkman Bandstand in Boston Common.

Initial Designs of the Embrace Statue

Imari Paris Jeffries, the newly appointed executive director of King Boston, commented on how the coronavirus pandemic and the recent Black Lives Matter protests have culminated in a wave of donors for the Embrace Statue. Since June, King Boston has received over 200K dollars in donations for the project.

“In a time like this where social distancing is the norm, something like the Embrace -- that is symbolic of not only the Kings’ legacy in Boston and the Kings’ love for each other, but also humanity’s love for each other -- right now, the Embrace is a visual representation of something that we all want to do.”

Imari Paris Jeffries, Newly Appointed Executive Director of King Boston

Since protests started in late May, many people have questioned statues and the history behind them in several American cities, including Boston. Monuments such as the Christopher Columbus statue in the North End and others around the nation have been vandalized.

“We need new symbols that represent new ways of being,” Jeffries said. “Then we need to engage in discourse about what these old symbols say about us. Symbols matter.”

While Jeffries said he is grateful for the recent wave of support for King Boston, he voiced his concern that the movement may stagnate.

“There is a level of nervousness that this won’t be sustainable,” Jeffries said. “As a country, we have a short attention span, and [there is a fear] that this will be another wave of focusing on one group, one issue, and when things start opening and you’re able to medicate yourself with retail, we’ll go back to being [the status quo].”

Recently, several corporations such as PayPal, Target, and Sephora have made promises to join the fight for racial justice. In response, King Boston has spearheaded an equity statement initiative to hold companies and public figures accountable for the pledges they make. Through its research initiative, King Boston wants to ensure the words are not empty promises.

Moving forward, Jeffries said he hopes that King Boston can become “a keeper of policy and a keeper of accountability.”

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Created with a photograph by Bettmann Corbis of the Kings embracing.