Missy and I had the opportunity to be in Boston, Massachusetts, during Black History Month.

We walked through the Boston Commons, visiting some of our favorite sites. We love the city’s history, connecting us to the struggles and celebrations of democracy.

The Freedom and Black Heritage Trails force sojourners to recall the birth of democracy and the beginning of the abolitionist movement. Each path inspires the soul in distinct and different ways.

And, of course, the statue of Mary Dyer pays tribute to the dangers of religious conformity and the need for religious liberty.

As great as these familiar moments were to us, our breath was taken away when we approached the Common’s newest statue, “The Embrace.”

The Huntington News reported: “‘The Embrace,’ designed by American conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas and the MASS Design Group, is an inspired interpretation of the hug shared by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King after learning he won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.”

When the statue was unveiled on January 13, some criticized the piece on social media as being “complicated and confusing.” My interpretation of the statue aligns with that statement, but for different reasons.

“The Embrace” sculpture in Boston Commons.

“The Embrace” sculpture in Boston Commons. (Photo: Mitch Randall)

For those who have not seen the statue in person, I encourage a trip to Boston to see it with your own eyes. When you do, you will see the beauty and inspiration found in the complicated and confusing design.

The struggle for racial justice in America has always been complicated and confusing. Yet, despite the complications and confusion of the ongoing civil rights movement, there are moments of inspiration, beauty and hope.

Standing in the shadows and casting my gaze on “The Embrace,” I was reminded of other embraces throughout history:

  • The embrace of slaves leaving their homes for life in shackles.
  • The embrace of slaves when families were broken up on plantations.
  • The embrace of friends when told they were not welcome.
  • The embrace of families after another lynching.
  • The embrace of voters when they were rejected at the polls.
  • The embrace of parents after their child was murdered.
  • The embrace of children when their parents were unjustly imprisoned.
  • The embrace of those hurting and weeping after feeling the sting of hate.

Thinking about all of the embraces throughout history and viewing the statue in Boston, I marvel at the reality that an embrace was chosen instead of a fist.

During the summer of 2020, after the deaths of George Floyd and others, protestors took to the streets to demand justice and policing reform. I’ll never forget the words of author Kimberly Jones, “They’re lucky Black people are looking for equality and not revenge.”


America should count itself fortunate that minority groups still embrace democratic ideals. They could have given up on equality and justice long ago, but they keep embracing the hope this country provides.

As a person of faith and admirer of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, I recall King’s “Ten Commandments for Non-Violence” in the face of injustice. Still reflecting on the statue honoring the Kings, I want to encourage people of faith to continue embracing these principles:

  • Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  • Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation– not victory.
  • Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  • Pray daily to be used by God in order that all [people] might be free.
  • Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all [people] might be free.
  • Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  • Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  • Refrain from violence of the fist, tongue or heart.
  • Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  • Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

King’s commandments remind those seeking justice that it is not with closed fists that the arc of the moral universe will bend, but with a loving embrace of open arms that melts the arc toward the divine purposes of reparation, restoration and reconciliation.

In his book Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus, Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry offered this wisdom: “Let us build a house where love can dwell, and all can safely live, a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive; built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace; here the love of Christ shall end divisions: All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.”

Welcome, my friends, begins with an embrace.

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