MLK III Speaks on The Island of Bimini, His Father’s Legacy
While at the Bimini Bay Resort in Bimini, Bahamas, a candid Martin Luther King III detailed his father’s lasting impact on the island 48 years after the prolific preacher’s first visit.
After attending a plaque dedication and a trip to the island’s mangroves where his father’s interaction with nature inspired two of his speeches, the eldest son of the civil rights leader sat down with rolling out magazine to recap his visit. Additionally King spoke on his late father’s legacy in a post-Obama Presidency and the people of this archipelago. -danielle canada
What brings you to the island of Bimini today?
The dedication of a memorial done in honor of my father Martin Luther King Jr. My father visited the island on a number of occasions just as the late congressman Clayton Powell of Abysynnian Baptist Church. I think congressman Powell shared with my father about this island and how close it was to the mainland of the United States. My dad ended up writing a couple speeches here. This historically is a very important place in our family and in the history of the modern day civil rights movement.
What is your take on the people of Bimini? I think your father was greatly inspired by their generosity and humanity.
Martin Luther King III: Ansil Saunders and others were of particular influence of my dad. There are a number of people in town who have stories and for me it’s an educational experience because I’m learning about my dad. I knew him as a 10-year-old kid but I’m learning more about him through people who actually interacted with him. Although I had my firsthand knowledge of who dad was, this humanizes my dad. Everyone has a story to tell and I think that’s wonderful.
I know you said that the bust and sculpture dedication means a tremendous amount to your family but can you describe directly the personal feelings you’ve had?
Last night was really moving and I had to fight back tears because of how Ansil Saunders portrayed dad. Ansil said when he looked in his eyes he realized that he was a very special and unusual man and that’s how they came to relate. This has been a most uplifting time for my wife and I. He [Martin Luther King, Jr.] was really working to create what he called a “love community” where poverty, racism, and militarism was eradicated from our society we got a long way to go before we achieve that. Some people thought with the election of President Obama was the fulfillment of “the dream.” I don’t think anyone feels that way anymore. I was surprised that people felt that way even then.
That was my next question. With Obama in office where do you see the status of your father’s legacy? Some people do think, ‘this is it, this is the end, we have a black President, we have a black First Lady’, but it’s not over, is it?
It was incredible as a step. It was quite phenomenal. It certainly moved the pendulum some. One of the greatest things that will happen particularly if the President is reelected is that to see an African American family structure kids will aspire to have families and be like the President. The unintended consequence is that the family structure is seen in tact and that’s what these young people will see and [therefore] say; ‘I want to be like that.’ That is incredible. As it relates to my dad and his dream of freedom, justice and equality we just have to keep making incremental progress.
Ultimately what do you want vistiors to Bimini to take away from these tributes to your father?
I would hope that they would take away the factor that the work is still unfinished. Usually with a memorial or statue we say, ‘that was in the past.’ Well I hope you’re reminded that these were the values that Martin Luther King, Jr. personified and exemplified and that his dream is not fulfilled yet. I hope it’s a reminder. There will be a day when we’ll be closer to it [“the dream”] and then it truly does become just a memorial. But for now this memorial in my judgement is a reminder. The reality is we have made great strides but we still have a long way to go.