The much-anticipated memorial to civil rights pillars Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King on Boston Common won’t be completed until 2022. But two miles away at the intersection of Shawmut Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, muralist Robb “ProBlak” Gibbs has honored the Kings with a new piece of public art called “Roxbury Love Story.”
The mural is situated on the exterior wall of a new apartment building developed by Kamran Zahedi, on a parcel of land that once held Twelfth Baptist Church, where King served as assistant minister from 1951 to 1954. (The church is presently located near Nubian Square.) It depicts the Kings as they would have appeared during their courtship in Boston, excitedly talking to each other through corded telephones on either side of an archway.
The couple in fact had their first conversation over the phone in 1952, after a mutual friend introduced them. ''He said, ‘I like the way you talk, and I’d like to meet you,’ " Coretta told the Globe in 2003. ''We agreed to meet for lunch the next day at Sharaf’s on Massachusetts Avenue, and he said, ‘I usually make it in 10 minutes, but tomorrow, I’ll make it in 7.’" They married a year and four months later.
Gibbs, whose joyously colorful murals grace many walls in Dorchester and Roxbury, sees the new mural as a much-needed dose of positivity in troubled times and a gift to his childhood stomping grounds. “Going to my grandparents' house, to the barbershop, to the high school, I’ve been walking past this area — to and from — for a long time,” said Gibbs, who is currently an artist in residence at the Museum of Fine Arts.
In addition to the mural, Zahedi also commissioned a plaque explaining the significance of the site and laying out a walking tour of local landmarks pertaining to the Kings' lives in Boston, including their addresses, the Wabon St. front steps where Martin posed for a fraternity group photo, and New England Conservatory, where Coretta received a degree in music education.
Similar names notwithstanding, “Roxbury Love Story” is unrelated to “Roxbury Love,” the Warren Street mural honoring Nelson Mandela that became a beloved local landmark before it was demolished without warning in July, to the dismay of many Roxbury residents.