Bahamas pays tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jan 19, 2015 - 4:33:41 PM
This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls on Monday, January 19, and
as celebrations in honor of the legacy of the civil rights icon take
place across the United States, Mrs. Joy Jibrilu, Director General of
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, has stated, “The people of The Islands
Of The Bahamas are extraordinarily proud of Dr. King’s visits to our
country. Knowing that some of his soaring oratory and his mighty voice
may have been inspired by time he spent visiting with us is a momentous
honor. It is a privilege for all Bahamians to pay tribute to this
amazing man whose passionate voice awakened the conscience of all
people”. The Director General is referring to the island of Bimini, a
tiny land of simple pleasures, beautiful people, pristine waters, and a
fishing haven for decades, where Dr. King vacationed.
Just 50 miles from the coast of Florida, the author Ernest Hemingway
lived on the small island chain in the 1930s, famously tangling with
blue marlin and giant tuna in Bimini's electric-blue waters. But, it is
part of the great legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that his visits
to the island significantly impacted the people of Bimini. A bronze bust
of his image, at the Bimini Craft Centre in Alice Town, serves as a
memorial to Dr. King’s historic legacy. Bahamians are pleased to note
that it was during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit in 1964 that he
wrote his famous Nobel Prize Acceptance speech; and while visiting in
1968, he wrote his Sanitation Workers speech.
One local islander, Ansil Saunders, a boat-builder and bone-fishing
guide, took many distinguished visitors out on the water, including Dr.
King, and has often reflected on their boat trips together. Saunders
recalls that in 1968, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the first
African-American Congressman from New York, owned a home in Bimini and
lived out his final years on the island. During that time, he and
Saunders became friends and often fished together. It was in 1968 that
Powell asked Saunders to take his guest out fishing, and that guest was
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His visit with Powell was his second visit to
Bimini—he was writing a speech that he planned to deliver to a group of
striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. His first visit had
occurred four years earlier, when he had come to the island to write his
acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Saunders recalls taking Dr. King through bonefish creek—when he slowed
the boat that day, the civil-rights leader had said that he felt a
connection to nature, and to God. “When I stopped the boat, there were
some birds overhead, the tide trickled by, snappers were running under
the mangrove roots and a stingray was burying and reburying itself,"
Saunders recalled. “Dr. King looked up and said, 'There's so much life
here … so much life all around us. How can people see all this life and
yet not believe in the existence of God?'”
King traveled back to Memphis and delivered his speech to the striking
sanitation workers. He spoke of going to the mountaintop and looking
over. “I've seen the Promised Land," King said. “I may not get there
with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get
to the Promised Land. And I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about
anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the
coming of the Lord." He was assassinated the next day.
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