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January 13, 2023

VIDEO: Pressley’s Remarks at Historic Unveiling of Embrace Memorial Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King

Pressley Addresses Dr. King’s Radical Love, Coretta Scott King’s Critical Role in the Movement, and Impact of ‘The Embrace’ to Boston

Video (YouTube)

BOSTON – Today in Boston, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) delivered heartfelt remarks at the historic unveiling of The Embrace memorial honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. In her address, Rep. Pressley underscored Dr. King’s radical love, the critical role Coretta Scott King played in the movement, and the impact of the Embrace to the City of Boston.

She joined the King Family, Embrace Executive Director Imari Paris Jeffries, and Massachusetts elected officials and leaders, including Governor Maura Healey, former Governor Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, and others at the unveiling.

A video of her remarks can be found here and a transcript is available below.

Pressley Speaks at Historic Unveiling of Embrace Memorial Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King

The Embrace Memorial, Boston Common

January 13, 2023

Good afternoon, and it is truly a good afternoon. A glorious one!

My joy and enthusiasm are not the least bit hampered by this changing weather. What’s a little raindrops and mud?

We need only summon the optimism and resolve of Martin and Coretta, who did what they were called to do in pursuit of a more just world, no matter the conditions or the circumstances.

What a surreal and humbling honor it is to join in beloved community with you in Boston, on this day. Where we affirm that representation matters. Equity in the permanent artistic DNA of this city’s infrastructure matters. Especially in a city with a storied past, but an evolving and still struggling present.

This is a day that has been a long time in the making. One only made possible due to a vision and unrelenting commitments, and the service of those who labored for many years to make it so.

I know we’ve been naming a lot of names today, but you’ll indulge me because on this day, on this record of history, there will be no erasure, and there will be no hidden figures.

And so, we lift up and we thank Paul English, and Liz Walker, and Jeffrey Brown, and Marie St. Fleur, and Imari Jeffries. We thank you for laboring in love.

We thank the donors who sowed a seed. We thank the volunteers for their sweat equity, the entire team and family of King Boston. We thank you.

But before I acknowledge anyone else, let me take a moment to acknowledge and to thank the King family. Today, we honor a man and a woman who are heroes to us, but were simply their family.

Indeed, Black families matter. I want to thank Martin Luther King III, Arndrea, Yolanda.

Yolanda, I was going to say if you lived in Boston, you might be coming for my seat. But I think you might skip Congress altogether and head straight for the White House.

But I also do want to, again, because these were their parents. And I want us to also acknowledge the other children and bring them into this space — Dexter, Bernice and the late Yolanda King. Can we please give it up to the King family one more time?

I thank you for modeling the grit, the grace, the faith, and determination of Coretta and Martin, in word and deed, for advancing the work of justice, and building upon their great legacy. Building upon the movements.

Now of course, movements do not move themselves. And although the movement was led by Martin and Coretta, I have to take a moment to acknowledge not only the community leaders and builders and civic leaders and activists and artists, I want to thank our ancestors. Faceless and nameless to many who sent up a prayer, who Vaseline-d an elbow, who packed a lunch. To this moment, to our ancestors, we say thank you.

We thank the foot soldiers and the Freedom Riders, from then and now. We thank you because we are still in the Civil Rights Movement. And movements do not move themselves.

And so, I thank my colleagues, my partners in government, for their stewardship. And again, we thank the incredibly talented artists, Hank Willis Thomas. We know that the ancestors were stewarding your hand and this vision and all those involved in ushering in a new Boston tradition, with the historic unveiling of The Embrace, creating a space of artistic testament and reverence to the enduring legacy of the Kings, and a reminder of their Boston origin story.

A sacred place where one can look at this masterpiece, derive inspiration, renew our hopes for a better world, and strengthen our resolve to do that work. That work with a capital W. To speak truth to power. To be actively anti-racist and not complicit in inaction and inertia.

We know with inaction and inertia, we have insurrection and unrest. We must do the work, of a capital W, of speaking truth to power. Of being actively anti-racist. Of confronting our colonial past. Of uprooting and dismantling white supremacy from the corridors of Congress, to Haiti, to Harrison Avenue.

When we reflect on Dr. King and his legacy, especially during the month of January, we recall Dr. King as a spiritual and moral leader, scholar and thought leader, an early architect of the Civil Rights Movement.

Yet too often, especially in January, his legacy is reduced to that of a peaceful protester with a dream. When the whole truth is Dr. King was a proud and unapologetic Black man. A prophetic preacher and radical dreamer with a bold vision and desire for revolutionary change.

Dr. King’s vision was a radical one, considered bold for the times, full inclusion, equity, a redistribution of wealth and resources, and voting rights. In word and deed, he sought to affirm that Black Lives Matter.

And in the face of threats, indignity, violence, brutality, and even isolation and marginalization because of his radical views, Dr. King still led with love. Love of God, love of humanity, love of justice.

And in this great City of Boston, he found the love of his life: Miss Coretta Scott, who became a devoted wife, trusted confidant, advisor, effective strategist and activist in her own right. Theirs is the story of the transformative power of love, of Black love.

Martin and Coretta, two brilliant, conscious, progressive people, aligned in the shared purpose of justice, who prayed together, who marched, rallied, boycotted, sacrificed with intention and urgency, stoking and appealing to our collective conscience, beginning in Boston, to embrace.

To embrace equality over racism.

To embrace peace over militarism.

To embrace grace over greed.

To embrace unity over division.

To embrace racial, economic, social justice, over oppression.

To embrace love over hate.

To embrace one another.

Martin loved Coretta. And Coretta loved Martin.

Their embrace of one another began in Boston. Their vision for a more just world. Their blueprint for a movement was formed and sharpened right here.

Before Georgia, there was Boston. Before Alabama, there was Boston. Before New York, there was Boston. Before Washington, there was Boston.

Where students at the New England Conservatory in Boston University respectively, went on a blind date, one which eventually resulted in a marital union, a beautiful family, and birthed a powerful and transformative movement.

And now, on today, people from throughout our Commonwealth, country, and world will travel to the Boston Common to bear witness to this profound work of art.

Like their love, a masterpiece, a tribute, and true representation of great love. And two great leaders: the Kings.

Let this masterpiece remind us of their sacrifice, radical dream and radical love so that we may come together in the pursuit of true justice and equality for all here in the City of Boston, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and our nation.