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Bimini Boat Builder Wins Top Cacique Award
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Posted by:Feb 2nd 2004, 01:41:20 pm
Fig Tree News TeamBoat builder, civil rights hero wins Cacique's top award

Guardian Staff Reporter

He is the last of the boat builders in Bimini where the craft is slowing drifting into demise. In accepting the Cacique Awards' 2004 Minister's Award Friday night, Ansil Saunders said he hopes boat building would spark an interest among young Bahamian men.

With his Cacique Award and Minister's Award plaque held close to his chest, Mr. Saunders offered this advice to youngsters, "You may not be able to speak as well as the prime minister.... but if you cannot be the best, be as good as the best."

A fifth generation bonefish guide and boat builder, Mr. Saunders has showcased his handmade fishing boats at numerous international exhibitions, and at times selling them for as much as $25,000. It is believed that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his Nobel Peace Prize speech on his boat in Bimini.

Mr. Saunders is also known in the civil rights world as the man who staged a sit-in for 42 consecutive days at a whites-only diner in Bimini.

In an interview with The Guardian after the award show, Mr. Saunders said he intends to visit Bimini-based schools and teach the craft to young men.

"I have to regroup them. I'm going to the schools and with the teachers spend at least one hour, maybe one hour of the school day, with the bigger boys building boats. And, at least one or two will get it. And, that's what we'll have to do," he said.

Mr. Saunders, other nominees and special guests were entertained by Bahamian band "Tingum Dem with Fred Ferguson" and live performances by the People Choice Song of the Year nominees (a new addition to the awards show).

From Sparkles' sexy rendition of her award-nominated hit single "You Gat Issues" to Eugene Davis' jumpy performance of "Drunk Again," the secular nominees in the People Choice Song of the Year had the audience fighting to stay in their seats.

But, that was short lived once the Gospel nominated artists performed. As Vision hopped while singing "All I Need," so did their supporters and when Tamika Smith sang "Junka Praise," her enthusiasm lifted the audience from their seats, most of who were waving handkerchiefs and leaping.

Love 97's Hope Rathcliffe and poet and playwright Michael Pintard, who successfully kept the crowd alive with his colourful poetry, hosted the award show.

Prominent musician Ronnie Butler received the 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award for his 50-year service to "thrill" Bahamians with his down-home Bahamian music.

Tingum Dem and Fred Ferguson played a few renditions of Mr. Butler's top hits, from "Goin' Down Burma Road" to "Goin' Back to the Island."

As the band began to play "Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number," Mr. Butler pranced from his chair, got on-stage and sang along. Encouraged by cheers and applause from the audience, Mr. Butler began to sway and step to the rhythm.

Receiving his award from Mr. Wilchcombe, he joked: "I think I going to sell this. If my name on this and the Honourable Obie Wilchcombe name on this, that worth a lot of money."

"There is one person to single out who has built me and helped me to get to this point. I would like to acknowledge him and that is 'King' Eric Gibson. He taught me to see the world," said Mr. Butler, who also thanked Bahamians for their support.

The winners of the People's Choice song competition were also announced. Winning both the Gospel Song and Writer of the Year was Tamika Smith and the Secular Song and Writer of the Year was Eugene Davis.

The evening concluded with a rendition of "Brand New World," a song written by former lead singer of the Visioneers, Dr. Myles Munroe, which was sung by all of the entertainers, including Mr. Butler.

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