The group that is installing a memorial honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King on the Boston Common is changing its name from King Boston to Embrace Boston.
The name change reflects the winning design of the memorial, a 22-foot high bronze sculpture consisting of interlocking arms, dubbed The Embrace. The sculpture will likely go up on the Common by the end of the year, in time to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony around MLK Day in January. (The sculpture’s components are being assembled in a foundry in Walla Walla, Wash.) The group picked the design and its artists, Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group, in 2019 out of nearly 150 submissions.
This represents the second time the group has changed its name. It was initially launched roughly five years ago as MLK Boston but was later broadened to King Boston to be more inclusive of both Kings, who met each other during their formative years in Boston. The group now has a 10-person team and its mission has grown beyond the memorial to encompass a museum and research center that will be built in Roxbury and other efforts. Embrace Boston remains a part of The Boston Foundation, although it is in the process of incorporating as an independent nonprofit.
“Until I was building a memorial called ‘Embrace,’ I didn’t realize how [often] people say ‘embrace’ when they talk about transformation and change,” said executive director Imari Paris Jeffries. “When you see arms embracing, it is beyond the Kings. ... All of us are the Kings, [with] this idea of embracing their values, embracing our own values, embracing each other.”
Also planned as part of the memorial: a plaza honoring dozens of civil rights activists in the city during 1950 and 1975. And Paris Jeffries envisions a trail of plaques that can eventually lead toward the future center in Roxbury or the Black Heritage Trail in Beacon Hill.
The idea of a prominent King memorial in Boston has been discussed for years but didn’t gain much traction until 2017, when software entrepreneur Paul English jump-started a $5 million fund-raising campaign by committing $1 million of his own money.
Since joining the organization in 2020, Paris Jeffries has ramped up fund-raising efforts, helped in part by the response to the murder of George Floyd. Jeffries said his group now has pledges totaling $28 million, including more than $10 million for the memorial itself. He is focusing on raising money for what will now be called the Embrace Center, to serve as a cultural hub and anchor for the city’s Black community, as part of a new mixed-use development planned by HYM Investment Group and My City at Peace for an eight-acre site on Tremont Street in Roxbury, not far from Nubian Square. The hope is that the Embrace Center could open sometime in 2027 or 2028.