Four intertwined bronze arms — a 22-foot-tall sculpture memorializing Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hugging his wife, Coretta Scott King – had an unveiling on Boston Common on 1-13-2023. Artist Hank Willis Thomas created The Embrace from the essence of a photograph showing the couple hugging after MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
At age 35 King was the youngest person to receive this honor for his staunch support of overcoming racism and poverty. He donated his $54,123 prize money to promote civil rights in 6 organizations, including the Gandhi Society for Human Rights. Just 4 years later King died from a gunshot wound after championing nonviolence in a manner modeled by his mentor, Mahatma Gandhi.
Boston was home to MLK when he met his future wife. While King was a doctoral candidate of systemic theology at Boston University (BU), creative Coretta Scott was completing her degree of opera studies at New England Conservatory of Music. They married in 1953 and MLK graduated from BU in 1955.
I feel privileged to have education ties to MLK.
BU was home for my counseling psychology doctorate, although many years after King’s studies there. Our paths did cross when I was in college. In King’s final campus speech before his untimely death, I heard him speak at Manchester College (now Manchester University) in Indiana. I still recall the experience of King, especially his resolute voice with a passion for peace and justice.
However, not everyone in that small Indiana community was appreciative of King’s peace message, as he was emphatically against the Vietnam War: “…our national administration is more concerned about winning an ill-considered war in Vietnam than about winning the war against poverty right here at home. I raise my voice against that war because I have seen what it has done to our nation…It has diverted attention from civil rights.” Our college president received hate mail, but today King is commemorated on campus with a bronze bust of him near the location of his speech.
Manchester celebrates the 75th anniversary of their Peace Studies Institute and Program for Conflict Resolution in 2023, the oldest undergraduate peace studies curriculum in the world. Originally a college for theology students, Manchester has religious roots in the Church of the Brethren, one of the historic churches devoted to peace.
- A take-away lesson from MLK was echoed by his son, Martin Luther King, III, upon the unveiling of the giant-arms sculpture: “…we must learn nonviolence, or we will cease to exist.”
- MLK believed in “…the sacredness of human personality…human life is too sacred to be taken on the battlefields of the world.”
- A take-away message from artist Thomas gives pause for thought: “There are so many monuments to victims of war; there are very, very few monuments to love.”
Join me in reaching for pearls of peace.
Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz
151. How often do you consider sacredness in another’s personality?
152. On this MLK Day, how can you embrace peace-making?