Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Boston draws online mockery, disdain

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The path of online mockery is paved with good intentions.

On Friday, a collection of civic organizations unveiled a 22-foot-tall bronze statue on Boston Common, the nation’s oldest public park, of the Rev. Honors the relationship between Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King. King was inspired by the photo embraced by civil rights pioneers after he learned that sculptor Hank Willis Thomas had won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.

“This work is really about the ability of each of us to be enveloped in love, and every time I hear the names and see the faces of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King, I am enveloped in love,” Thomas told the Boston Globe.

His work depicts four intertwined arms. From one angle, the limbs form a heart, representing the couple’s love. But since Chicago’s landmark “Cloud Gate” sculpture, which quickly became known as “The Bean” for looking like a giant bean, legions of amateur art critics don’t see Thomas’ intent.

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Many took particular issue with the fact that the kings were not fully portrayed.

“Because I’m not white, I’m safe from any accusations of racism for saying the statue of MLK embracing is aesthetically distasteful. The famous photo should be a full statue of the couple and their embrace. What a huge swing and miss in honoring Dr. and Mrs. King. Sadness!” He tweeted Boston Herald columnist Rashid N. Walters.

“Show me a white man honored with a statue of his two limbs” He tweeted Comedian Javan Jones.

“That MLK statue looks obscene from some angles, but when you look at the whole thing you realize it’s supposed to depict the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr. [Coretta] Scott King went through a teleporter in The Fly together. He tweeted The Daily Wire’s Frank J. Fleming.

Many others, however, cracked more vulgar jokes about what they saw as a provocative arrangement of hard-to-identify body parts.

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Coretta King’s cousin Seneca Scott blasted the artwork in an essay for the online journal Compact, which she titled “A masturbating ‘homage’ to my family.” “To my family, it’s humiliating,” she wrote, adding that “the sculpture is a particularly striking example of the callousness and vanity of the awakening machine.” It seems a particularly expensive but empty gesture to them.

“Ten million Dollars were wasted creating a masturbating metal tribute to members of my legendary family – one of the greatest American families of all time. … How could anyone fail to see that this would bring few, if any, tangible benefits to struggling black families?” Scott wrote.

The piece, of course, is both commissioned and engraved with good intentions. In 2017, the city issued a call for artists to create a memorial to the Kings who met in Boston, eventually choosing Thomas, a well-known Brooklyn-based artist.

On Friday, King was unveiled in an invitation-only ceremony at the same venue where 20,000 people marched for independence 50 years ago.

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Mayor Michelle Wu said the sculpture will help the public live up to King’s vision to “open our eyes to the injustice of apartheid and bring more people into the movement for equality,” according to the Boston Globe.

“The recognition of Coretta Scott King shows that we are a city that takes King’s full legacy and challenges injustice everywhere from a place of love,” Woo said in a statement. “As we continue our work to ensure Boston is a city for everyone, this memorial is a powerful call to embrace each other more, embrace our nation’s history and embrace what’s possible when we focus on community.”

“I hope people who experience ‘The Embrace’ will understand or transcend the power of connection to enhance our lives,” Thomas told the magazine, adding, “I’m passionate about building identities that direct us toward and allow us to co-exist nonviolently. Tell new stories about our history, our present, our future.


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