"You know, I don't think I'm going to make 40 years old," Dr. Martin Luther King told renowned bone fisher Ansil Saunders. The year was 1968, and King was sailing through the mangroves of the Bahamas island of Bimini. Sadly, the trip would be one of King's final moments of solitude: the civil rights icon was gunned down days later, dying on April 4, 1968. He was 39 years old.
This past weekend, 50 years after King's assassination, representatives of REVOLT TV were part of a group of millennial influencers who traveled to Bimini, an island of the Bahamas populated by approximately 2,000 people, to meet with Saunders. Saunders told the group, led by Resorts World Bimini Manager Aaron Keene, that the island became a prime destination for serenity, and that some of the world's most iconic figures would visit to fish. He would meet honorable minister Louis Farrakhan, the Queen of England, Muhammad Ali, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself.
King initially visited Bimini to meet with Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, the United States' first black person elected from congress to New York, for help with passing civil rights legislation. Powell had a home in Bimini while avoiding controversy in the U.S., and he introduced King to Saunders during a boat ride through the mangroves. The trip brought clarity and a peace of mind to Dr. King, and while there he wrote his Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech, which he would deliver in October 1964.
Saunders said that the hardest part about King's civil rights work was worrying about his family. He once received a call, while he was out preaching, informing him that his house was burned down - a time when his wife and children could have been home. He also shared with Saunders the dangers of leading the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott. He would leave his house at 2 a.m., alone, to ensure that no one used the bus.
But King also had worries for his own safety. During his second trip to Bimini in 1968, he told Saunders his premonition about his death. Amazed by the wonder of nature in the mangroves, he asked Saunders, "How can you be around so much life and not believe there's a God?" Saunders replied with a psalm that he would recite. (He initially called it Psalm 151, and he now calls it "The Creation Psalm.") The piece ponders the works and the existence of God. After hearing it, a tearful Dr. King said, "Ansil, you made me feel so close to heaven, I feel as if I can almost reach out and touch the face of God."
King then sat down beside Saunders and wrote what would be his final speech, one in support of the striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn. Widely known as the "Mountaintop" speech, he delivered it three days after he left Bimini, on April 3, 1968. He also wrote the words of his own eulogy.
Saunders learned of his dear friend's assassination over the radio in Bimini. Years later, at age 85, the date of April 4 still brings him pain: it wasn't only the date of King's death, but was also the date that Powell died years later in 1972. When questioned about the prospects of reaching King's vision, he had his own questions for God.
"It's closer, but it sure ain't over. So much more to be done I don't think we'll ever get over 100 percent," Saunders said. "God is so much wiser than us, but I don't know why he didn't make us all one color. He should've made us all black."