The day will be filled with ceremony, music, food, film and community. We are asking participants to wear monarch orange, white or ocean blue in honor of MaVynee.
We will begin at noon by gathering on the lawn of the American Beach community center and museum located at 1600 Julia St. at 12:30 pm. We will proceed to the ocean at the Lewis St. entrance for pouring of libation and offerings to the ancestors and the ocean at 1 pm. We will then return to the community center for an exquisite, vegan buffet luncheon prepared by chef Teena Myers of Mystic Roots and Fellowship. At 3 pm we will screen the documentary “The Beach Lady”, produced and directed by Erica McCarthy of Nowhere Athens productions and have community reflections.
Full day film and luncheon tickets are $25, film screening tickets are $15, beach ceremony is open to the public and free of charge. Proceeds from this event benefit the future endeavors of American Beach Afrotopia LLC.
REMEMBERING MaVynee Oshun “The Beach Lady” Betsch was born January 13th, 1935 in Jacksonville, Florida. She was born to one of the preeminent black families in the South. Her parents were Mary Frances Lewis Betsch and John Thomas Betsch Sr. MaVynee’s great-grandparents were Abraham Lincoln Lewis, the first Black millionaire in the state of Florida, and a founder of Florida’s first insurance company and oldest African-American beach. Her great grandmother Mary Kingsley Sammis Lewis was the great granddaughter of Zephaniah Kingsley and Anna Kingsley of Kinsgley Plantation. The plantation is now a National Park Historic site. MaVynee’s sister, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, is a scholar and anthropologist and president emerita of both Spelman and Bennett colleges for women and her brother John Thomas Betsch jr., also has the family’s musical gift and is a jazz drummer who has lived in Paris since the 1980’s. Her niece, Peri Frances, shares her passion for and commitment to American Beach and is one of the hosts of the celebration. MaVynee was educated at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, and after earning her bachelor’s degree in 1955, moved to Europe, where she was a celebrated opera singer for ten years.
In 1975, she moved to her great grandfather’s beach house on American Beach and became dedicated to the preservation and protection of American Beach from development and destruction. Better known as “The Beach Lady”, she devoted herself educating the public on the rich African American history and environmental significance of American Beach. An avid environmentalist and eco warrior, with the aid of her beloved community, The Beach Lady succeeded in assuring the preservation of the 60-foot sand dune, to which she gave the name NaNa, thereby creating a physical buffer protecting the community from development. With her impressive 7 foot lock, operatic flair and uniquely self expressed way of being, MaVynee Oshun “The Beach Lady” Betsch stands tall as the face of American Beach. She is “a protected, majestic and spiritual presence on American Beach.” She spent years collecting memorabilia, and generating interest in her dream for an American Beach Museum. Although she did not live to see the opening of the museum in 2014, it stands today as a testament to her great will and tenacity. She transitioned into the realm of the ancestors at the age of 70 on September 5th, 2005. We honor her life and memory and continue in her work of preserving the history of Historic American Beach.