Bim_MLKBust-650x476The Bahamas now has a new international heritage site on its westernmost island of Bimini. It is that of the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the world’s late, great advocate for peace. Dr. King first went to the peaceful tiny island in 1964 to work on his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance speech and liked it so much that he returned to write his sanitation workers speech in 1968.  To honour the civil rights leader who found peace and serenity on the pristine island, the Bahamian government just mounted the bust of King at the Bimini Craft Centre in Alice Town. They also erected a bust of the peacemaker in the mangroves of Bimini where he used to retreat for restoration and to convene with nature.

Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie recently unveiled the bust in honor of Dr. King at a ceremony in Alice Town where it will remain as a permanent memorial heritage site. Prime Minister Christie said that he was delighted to observe the historic occasion on the 48th anniversary Dr King’s visit to island which coincided with the 40th Independence Anniversary of the Bahamas. “This event marks the establishment of an international memorial in Bimini honoring the transforming work and great legacy of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Minister Christie. “His extreme sacrifice, brilliant life, his vision of non-violent change while impacting the United States of America and the international community, also inspired the founding fathers of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”

Minister Christie added: “As the closest offshore island to the United States of America, Bimini is going to be a very prominent island, I think, beginning as early as December.” He went on to explain that the international memorial of King is critical to the building of tourism in the Bahamas. The Prime Minister said he hoped the King project would bring more investors on board to assist in the further development of the island.

bim_mlk_IMG_0745-650x365Bimini, touted as the “Gateway to the Bahamas is already a quickly-growing tourist destination known for its big fishing game events and is home to the country’s largest marina at the Bimini Bay Resort. The paradise island will have even more to offer as it will also become more of a cultural heritage vacation spot with the addition of the bust of the world-renown hero. Visitors from the United States before December will be able to take a high-speed ferry at a very reasonable cost to Bimini, which will soon be home to the Bahamas’s largest casino.

Dr. King went to Bimini to relax and fish as well as to work on his speeches. It is here that he met Ansil Saunders who has become an oral historian on the visits. Saunders a bone fisherman and boat builder used to take Dr. King out in the mangroves for quiet time and reflection.  He also spoke during the bust unveiling ceremonies about his personal experiences with the civil rights pioneer.  

“King used to say that Bimini was so peaceful and close to nature that only God could have created such a spot,” recalled Saunders. “I remember how he said that he felt like he could reach out and touch the face of God right here in Bimini. He loved this place. I could tell when he first stepped on the soil that there was something special about him and Bimini,” said Saunders who got to have serious conversations with his new spiritual friend about God and nature before he left the island for the last time. Dr. King was assassinated a few days later. Saunders said that King knew he was going to die, and while in Bimini he had also written part of his eulogy that became known as “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.”

 Others present to witness the historic unveiling of the bust included Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration the Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Tourism the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe, Martin Luther King III and his wife Arndrea; the MLK Project Chair Joyce Danford, senior government officials, representatives of the United States Embassy in Nassau, students of the Edward Waters College, community residents, national and international guests and sponsors. Mother Tynetta Muhammad, wife of the late Honorable Elijah Muhammad also attended the ceremonies.

bim_groupAccepting the tributes in his late father’s absence, Martin Luther King, III, the eldest son of King thanked the Bahamas on behalf of his family. He said that he appreciated what was being done in commemoration of his father’s legacy.  King, III mentioned how he recalled seeing an interesting statue of educator Horace Mann when once visiting Antioch College in Yellow Spring, Ohio where his mother attended undergraduate school.  There was something inscribed upon that statue that made an indelible impact on my life. It read: “Be ashamed to die until you’ve won a victory for humanity.”

King went on to tell the audience that this was not a tall an order as it seems because it can be broken down. “We can win victories in our neighborhood, we can win a victory in our school, we can win a victory in our places of worship. Some of us will win victories in our cities and nations and some even in our world. But be ashamed to die until you’ve done a little something,” said King who was the keynote speaker for the Martin Luther King Plaque Project Scholarship Banquet that evening.

The banquet marked the beginning of efforts to raise funds for 17 full four-year scholarships, for Bahamian students to attend Edward Waters College in Florida. Delegates and dignitaries on hand for the scholarship banquet where King, III spoke that evening included Leslie Bethel, Chief Operating Officer of Rav Bahamas Ltd., developers of Bimini Bay Resort & Marina who said that Bimini Bay was pleased to support the event. Also present was Esmin Master, Chairman of the Martin Luther King Plaque Project Scholarship Fund who explained that everyone can donate to the scholarship fund. “We’re looking for individuals, for family members, church members, community, lay leaders, corporations and civic organizations. No donation will be considered too small,” said Master.

The bronze bust figure in the likeness of Dr. King that will serve as an international memorial in Bimini was designed by sculptor Erik Blome, who has done several other statues of King in the US. Bimini is also noted for once being the home of the late Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, whom Dr. King visited when he came. Bimini was also a sanctuary for noted writer Ernest Hemingway where he wrote his famous novel “Island in the Stream." The island’s restorative power, tranquility, distinct culture and charming people are features that brought Ponce de Leon to Bimini in search of the legendary Fountain of Youth. For more information on Bimini, visit www.mlkbiminimemorial.com.