By Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — After years of planning, a memorial to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, is moving forward in Boston. The non-profit King Boston is coordinating the project.

“While the rest of the country is tearing down memorials to symbols that don’t represent us, Boston is building a memorial — a 22-foot, three-story high memorial — that represents who we want to be and who we want to be post-pandemic,” said King Boston Executive Director Imari Paris Jeffries. “That feels pretty darn exciting.”

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‘The Embrace’ will stand at the site of the 1965 rally and march led by MLK on the Boston Common. Construction wouldn’t begin on site until March or April of 2022 because the bronze fabrication of the memorial takes about 18 months.

The Embrace by Hank Willis Thomas (Image credit: MLK Boston)

The memorial also celebrates King’s connection to Boston. Years before his iconic 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Boston was home to a young Martin Luther King Jr. He lived on Mass. Ave and studied at Boston University. It was there where he would earn a PhD in systematic theology and become Dr. King. Boston is also where he met Coretta Scott. For artist Hank Willis Thomas, the couple’s bond inspired the memorial that will rise in honor of their legacies.

“I really was most drawn to this idea that these two young lovers came together. And through their bond, they were able to build a strong foundation for a movement that has lived beyond their life,” said Thomas.

Thomas and a team at Mass Design will create the structure. “People will be able to walk into it and there are four interlocking arms, that are an abstract form of the embrace. You’ll see the hands and feel the heart. When you get to walk inside of it, you’ll look up and you can see the sky,” Thomas said. “I hope you feel the warmth of their love and recognize that is the love that exists in each and every one of us.”

King Boston has raised $12 million so far and is finalizing its archaeological survey. Despite the pandemic, Paris Jeffries said they are relatively on schedule.

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The timing of the memorial has proven to be significant in more ways than one.

“I think we as a city and a country have experienced an extreme amount of trauma together, it is this bonding experience we didn’t want and we never asked for and would never wish upon another generation. And the things that we’ve gotten to see and witness together has created this new urgency that I think resonates with every single person at least that’s in the Commonwealth,” said Paris Jeffries. “King’s notion of this garment of destiny and the Beloved Community resonate now more than it ever has.”

Paris Jeffries also referenced the Capitol Hill riot which occurred on January 6. “Our struggle for liberation and freedom for everyone is not over,” he said.

But Paris Jeffries is optimistic about the future.

“I think Boston has an opportunity to be one of the first cities to represent these ideals of us being connected, us being inclusive, us being antiracist, us being committed to economic justice. I think King came here two times to help deliver and strengthen that message with Boston leaders and we have an opportunity to make sure it sticks when we emerge from this time period,” he said.

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“Boston has a fighting chance to be the city on a hill that we’ve always wanted it to be.” Staff