No Common ground in Boston’s ‘Embrace’ statue

Like many other Bostonians, I’ve lived my entire life in the Common, whether it was being pushed in a stroller, playing in the Frog Pond, pacing to a meeting, or just enjoying the ambiance.

My feet have traveled many miles in America’s oldest park. There are several impressive monuments and statues on Boston Common, but two really stand out.

The equestrian statue of George Washington is considered the first and is considered one of the most famous. Mounted on horseback and assuming a commanding stance as he would on the battlefield, Washington is portrayed in his element.

The second is the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Monument, which honors one of the best-known African-American Civil War regiments and shows Col. Robert G. Shaw leading his brave soldiers into battle. Both statues hold a special place in our history as a nation and as a city.

What could be better than two? Three!

To honor two extraordinary people who have made significant contributions not only to Boston and the United States but to the world at large. dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King are Boston’s adopted son and daughter.

Martin and Coretta’s love story began in Boston in 1952 while Martin was completing his Ph.D. in theology from Boston University. The young couple even went on a date at the Boston Common.

There are statues of Dr. Kings across the country, but finding one with both kings together is incredibly rare. The only one that exists is in Allentown, Pennsylvania and was unveiled in 2011.

The illustrious history of Boston Common and Boston’s popularity as a tourist destination made this opportunity to honor royalty all the more fitting. Additionally, this statue will represent just how far Boston has gone from being a racist city to being a world-class, inclusive city over the past 50 years, which is what Dr. King’s dream reflects.

Imari K. Paris Jefferies, executive director of local nonprofit Embrace Boston and Boston’s self-proclaimed pastor of Dr. King, has been given the enormous and prestigious responsibility. Hank Willis Thomas was the creator and craftsman of the statue.

The city’s “elite” gathered Friday for a closed invitation-only event to unveil the statue, “The Embrace.” The statue depicting a hug between Dr. King and Mrs. King was nothing more than two arms detached from a body.

Depending on how you look at it, the statue appeared to be feces, sexual innuendo, or an “awakened penis,” as the New York Post described it. The Embrace Statue is a complete insult to the honor and legacy of royalty, a disgrace to the city of Boston, and an aesthetically unpleasing addition to the country’s oldest park.

To his credit, Thomas has attempted to produce art honoring royalty based on his creative perspective, but he would have been better off presenting it to the Institute of Contemporary Art, where it would have found more traction.

Thomas would have been wise to refer to Ann Hirsch’s statue of Bill Russell, which is on display at City Hall Plaza and does a great job of capturing Russell’s basketball element.

This spectacular failure was the subject of countless jokes across the country. Black Bostonians don’t laugh, however; We are outraged, dissatisfied and angry that this opportunity was missed.

We see no statues depicting General George Washington’s severed arm wielding a sword. So why should we see mutilated statues of our African American heroes?

Rasheed Walters is a Herald columnist.

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 18 - SATURDAY: A couple walk through the rain under a monument to George Washington as they enter the Public Garden from Arlington Street on April 18, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Paul Connors/Media News Group/Boston Herald)
A couple walks through the rain under the Common’s George Washington statue. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)
BOSTON, MA - January 8, 2023 People take a look at Embrace, the sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. on Boston Common which will be unveiled on January 13th.  (Staff photo by Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
“The Hug” from a different angle. (Chris Christo/Boston Herald)

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