(CNN) — Criticism erupted soon after a monument was unveiled in Boston intended to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
The 20-foot-tall, 40-foot-wide statue “The Embrace” was unveiled Friday on the Boston Common, where King gave a speech to a crowd of 22,000 on April 23, 1965. The statue was inspired by a photograph of King and Scott King embracing after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
The work, designed by Brooklyn-based conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas, only shows the couple’s arms during an embrace and not their heads, drawing criticism and derision online. Some described the monument as disgusting or disrespectful, while others posted memes and said it amounted to a sexual act.
Seneca Scott, a community organizer in Oakland, California, and Scott King’s cousin, told CNN the statue was an insult to his family. He previously described it as a “metal masturbation tribute” in an essay published Compact Magazine.
“If you can see it from all angles, and it’s probably two people embracing, it’s four hands. It’s not the missing head that represents the atrocity that others attribute to it; it’s a stump.” that looks like a penis. It’s a joke,” Scott told CNN.
However, Martin Luther King III said Monday that he was grateful to be able to see a statue depicting his parents’ love story and their relationship. While some people have negative views about the monument, King III told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday that the monument.
“I think it’s a great representation of what brings people together,” King said. “I think the artist did a great job. I’m satisfied. Yes, it didn’t have pictures of my parents, but it represents something that brings people together.”
He added, “And in this time, day and age, when there is so much division, we need symbols that speak of coming together.”
CNN has reached out to Thomas for comment on his response to “The Embrace.” In his newsletter, Thomas said earlier this month that the piece was not only a monument to King and Scott King “but a monument to the love and the power that it holds.”
A representative for Embrace Boston, a nonprofit racial and economic justice group behind the monument’s construction, declined to comment on the criticism, citing King III’s comments.
“The purpose of the embrace is to inspire visitors to reflect on the values of racial and economic justice espoused by King,” the group said of the monument on its website.