The hug—shared between Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King , after he won the 1964 Nobel Peace prize – memorialized in a statue
“I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth crushed to earth will rise again. How long? Not long because no lie can live forever.” MLK
“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe you must become its soul.” CSK
I don’t usually write about a statue so soon after it’s been unveiled. But this particular statue with its hopeful message needs to be embraced now. The world needs a collective hug.
Another note of importance. This is the second statue on this blog that features a man. The first one was “Embracing Peace,” another statue that not only uses the word embrace in the title but was also inspired by an iconic photo (‘the kiss’ between a soldier and a nurse on VJ Day). Sometimes I break my own rules. It doesn’t happen often, only if it serves the greater good. And since MLK spent his life in the pursuit of the greater good… I should rephrase.. lost his life fighting the good fight, I’ll make a spot for him. Anyone have a problem with that?
“The Embrace,” a massive bronze statue which stands 20 feet high, 40 ft. wide and weighs 19 tons was sculptured by Hank Willis. It took him five years to complete. It’s much more than a statue, it’s a monumental work of art. Its origin is from a photo of a hug, which gives it an abstract contour, that allows for interpretation. If you look at it from a different vantage point, or if you use an alternate Point Of View, you might see something other than a hug. When I looked at it from a south-facing camera angel, I saw a heart. That’s the beauty of art. Here’s my interpretation: I saw the statue as a memorial for two people who advocate(d) for racial and economic justice. Their embrace was a tribute to their love. Watch as their weddings rings shine in unity. But I also see Martin, carrying the weight of his crusade on his shoulders. Then there’s Coretta, who also carries his legacy on her shoulders. To me, the hug is a symbol of holding fast, staying connected while leaning into the circle of inclusion, in a ‘we’re in this together’ message.
The statue stands proud in Boston Commons, Massachusetts where Martin gave his “How Long? Not long” speech. The Kings have expressed their gratitude. They see the monument as a testament to their parents’ dual civil rights journey. What will you see? How will you interpret it?
When an artist takes creative liberties and deviates from traditional models, some people raise up in arms. Don’t let them. This is a beautiful piece of art, a way to memorialize a brilliant man and his righteous wife. We need more monuments like this to dot our landscape with images of women, and yes, men too, that represent peace, equality, love, and unity. I’m all in favor of smashing the patriarchy, but this statue does just the opposite. It brings the woman into the fold as an equal partner and holds her tight.