King Boston dedicated the Embrace Memorial, honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King, on April 27 in a ceremony at the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common.
Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of King Boston, was joined by colleagues from King Boston, as well as Boston’s head of environment, energy and open spaces, the Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, the designer of Embrace Hank Willis Thomas, Amandi Music, Boston Mayor Michelle. Wu, Governor Charlie Baker and U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, along with supporters and funders, for the celebration, which took place on what would have been Coretta Scott King’s 95th birthday.
The Embrace memorial will be a 22ft bronze sculpture of the hands and arms of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, based on a 1964 photo of the two after King discovered he had won the award Nobel Peace Prize. .
The design was chosen from 126 submissions from around the world by an art team from King Boston and the City of Boston, after being narrowed down to five finalists. The Embrace was designed by Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group, and will be located near the Tremont Street side of the Boston Common.
According to a press release, “The monument will be the nation’s largest memorial to equity, representing Boston’s path to becoming the city where all are welcome and a place of opportunity for all.”
Imari Paris Jeffries said at the event, “This moment represents the power of all of us and is part of a vision to create a radical, equitable, and inclusive Boston by 2030, the city’s 400th anniversary.”
Alongside the Embrace Memorial, King Boston has plans for a Center for Economic Justice, which King Boston’s website says will be “grounded in community engagement and aimed to generate the data and knowledge needed to inform movements at home.” local level and beyond.” The center will eventually become a “research institute” and partner with “community groups, coalitions and other stakeholders,” the website says.
Sam Giarratani, a public art manager who worked closely with Hank Willis Thomas on the design side of the memorial process, is originally from Revere and moved to Winthrop when she was a teenager.
“It was amazing, for lack of a better word,” Giarratani told the Transcript. “I started this in 2018 and through the pandemic, through the mayoral changes, it’s still happening and there’s a huge hole in the ground and I’m really, really proud of my city that this is actually happening. “
Giarratani is one of the founders of Negative Space, LLC, a New York-based production management company for public art campaigns.
“I operate behind the scenes of the artwork,” she said, “coordinating the vision.”
She added, “It’s a really interesting artistic administrative role.” She said she was working “very closely and collaboratively” with those involved in the project, including the landscapers and visionaries behind the idea of putting a memorial on Boston Common.
Giarratani said she was happy to see “so many people supporting this project” during the inauguration of the works last Wednesday.
“Just like seeing people from all industries show up, I think, indicates that this is a really important groundbreaking thing that’s happening – not just to put a monument in one of the oldest parks in the country, but to kind of talk about the racial history that we have and I know that Boston can kind of gloss over some of the issues that they’ve had in the past,” she said. “It’s kind of show that they are ready to commit and do the work.”
She praised King Boston for his work to “elevate Boston’s black community” and said she looks forward to people interacting with the memorial, which is set to be officially unveiled on Martin Luther King, Jr. next year.
She said she hopes the Embrace memorial will become as important to the park as the Make Way for Ducklings statue has become.
“I hope it becomes part of the park’s ecosystem, and I’m excited to see people taking photos below and reading around it and just adding to the backdrop.”
Giarratani said construction will continue until December, when the piece is expected to be fully installed.
“I’m just super grateful,” she said.
At the dedication, Reverend Mariama-White Hammond led a land reconnaissance, reminding those present that the land that is now Boston Common is the “traditional homeland of the Massachusett Tribe.” She added: “We are so happy today to celebrate the legacy of the kings and their love.”
Embrace designer Hank Willis Thomas thanked those involved in the making of this memorial, saying, “It’s an incredible amalgamation of so many people’s love for humanity; love for the possibility of what we can do and what can happen when we work together.
King Boston Art Selection Committee Member Barry Gaither spoke about the selection process and why The Embrace was chosen as the winner.
“We came to the Embrace,” he said, “and it posed to us the great question of ‘how do you express love simultaneously in an intimate and global sense?’ The embrace represented this distillation of the gesture.
Governor Charlie Baker also made the remarks, saying “it’s the kind of thing that forces everyone to come to terms with the idea that every day if you’re not moving forward, you’re going backwards.”
He continued: “And I really hope that this memorial and all that it represents, and the work that will be done by the center in the future, will be there to constantly remind us of what remains to be done and why. it’s so important that it’s done here in the Commonwealth and here in the city of Boston.
For more information about the memorial and about King Boston, visit kingboston.org, and for more information about Sam Giarratani’s society, visit https://negativespace.rocks.