“… Peace Is More Precious Than Diamonds
Civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. concluded his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Norway with this powerful remark, moving humanity towards freedom from all hate, prejudices, and cruelty. He urged everyone to embrace one another’s differences and find love as a common ground. This was the foundation of King’s campaign and his lifelong initiative – advocating for equality and leading nonviolent protests against injustices, particularly those towards African Americans. King’s rhetoric mentions all the violence, war, and oppression he witnessed during his lifetime and then describes a future in which the world finds a way to live together in peace.
Or Silver Or Gold.”
Martin Luther King experienced the purest form of peace in 1964 when he came to Bimini to prepare for this very Nobel Peace Prize reception speech. Bimini’s tranquil scenery is the perfect backdrop for reflection and meditation. With its miles of untouched beaches, where one can just sit and listen to the waves gently slap the shorelines while staring off into the crystal blue ocean – it’s easy to get lost in the calmness of Bimini. There’s no doubt that Dr. King felt inspired by Bimini’s natural beauty and laidback lifestyle.
Dr. King came to Bimini to relax and fish while he worked on his speech. It is here that he met Ansil Saunders, a bone fisherman and boat builder, and one of Bimini’s most well-known residents. He served as Dr. King’s personal guide and would take him out into the mangroves for private reflection time. Saunders recalls, “King used to say that Bimini was so peaceful and close to nature that only God could have created such a spot. He loved this place. I could tell when he first stepped on the soil that there was something special about him and Bimini.”
Dr. King also returned to Bimini in 1968 to write his sanitations workers speech – the last oration he would ever deliver. He wrote this speech in Saunders’ wooden boat, deep in the Bimini mangroves, surrounded by murky waters, winding swamps, and marine life. There in isolation, Dr. King meditated on his life, his strife, and his faith. He shared his thoughts with Saunders where they exchanged spiritual ideas about God and nature, before Dr. King left the island for the last time.
Dr. King was assassinated on the evening of April 4, 1968. He was fatally shot while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, only a few days after his sanitation workers’ strike speech. 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.” He remembers Dr. King fondly and was greatly touched by his humility and strength. Saunders recalls, “He enjoyed communing with nature in the mangroves. Birds were singing. Stingrays were swimming by. He was inspired.”
Bahamians consider Martin Luther King Jr.’s time in Bimini a momentous honor, knowing that in some way, the island was responsible for inspiring his soaring oratory. They deem it a privilege to pay tribute to Dr. King on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, acknowledging that his passionate voice awakened the consciences of people from all over the world. To honor his legacy, the Bahamian government built an international heritage site in his memory.
There is now a bust of Dr. King at the Bimini Craft Centre in Alice Town, as well as a statue of him in the mangroves, built in his honor by Ansil Saunders. No matter the time that has passed, Martin Luther King Jr.’s spirit is ever-present in the island that inspired him. To this day, Ansil offers intimate boat tours of the very spot in the mangroves that renewed Dr. King courage to carry on his mission. Listen to the first-hand accounts of Dr. King’s passion through the voice of Ansil, and you’ll feel the legend’s presence residing over the still blue waters.
Now and forever, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, conviction, faith, and love lives on through the powerful tales of Ansil Saunders, and in the island of Bimini, his special sanctuary where he found peace, serenity, and a connection to inspire millions. The legacy of our nation’s greatest peacemaker is a light that will never fade. This year on April 4, the island of Bimini honors Dr. King and his innumerable achievements on the 50-year anniversary of his assassination. While we mourn the loss of a man who fought for the rights of generations to come, we also remember with pride that his courage, teachings, and the inspiration he imparted in each of us will live on forever.