environmental women of colour Archives | Human Aquarium

Spotlight on MaVynne Betsch…

By Humanadmin

MaVynne Betsch – Singer, environmentalist, activist and survivor was born on January 13, 1935 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Black-Environmental leader- American Beach- inspiring- women -of-colour-Black-Leaders

“When I die I’m coming back as a butterfly.”

She was raised in one of the most pre-eminent black families in the South. Since 1975, Betsch made it her full-time mission to preserve and protect American Beach, her great-grandfather’s investment, from development and destruction. She was famously named “Beach Lady,” for her many efforts and dedication to the beach and its inhabitants. MaVynne Betsch insured that the world would know about her families rich legacy in Florida and the accomplishments of her great great grandfather and his partners that were visionaries that founded a Black beach resort not only during segregation, but had it flourishing during the Great Depression.  When MaVynee Betsch entered the world on January 13, 1935, she no doubt entered the world dancing and singing.  As she spent time with her great great grandfather in the sands of Nana which would come to be the center of the beach resort founded in there that same year of MaVynee’s birth, she got the words that she would continue to sing and teach concerning the pride that people of African descent should have about themselves and the contributions that they make and have made to the world. 

“The Beach Lady” – MaVynee Betsch shared history and environmental facts with everyone that showed up at American Beach and saw her RV or met her as she laid out on the briar filled grass and sand in her lawn chair.  She wanted this history to continue to be told long after she passed and would no longer be able to tell it like she could walking with her 6 foot long lock that she had grown to get selected for the Guinness World Book of Records cradled in her arm.  She cradled her hair the same way she cradled every person that arrived at American Beach seeking to know more about what had taken place in this space that was a crucial part of Black history since it represented the story of the successful partnerships of Black people as well as the support that we had given one another.   To insure that the story would continue to be told through the numerous articles, photographs, and historical pieces that she had collected regarding American Beach, she started to lobby everyone she knew to help get the American Beach Museum built.  The beginning was founding the “Abraham L. Lewis Historical Society” and after that came the effort to get the land and to raise the money for the building.

MaVynne Betsch gave her life savings, some $750,000, to sixty environmental organizations and causes, ten of which she was a lifetime member, and most of them involved animals. ‘Beach Lady’ was featured on CBS and CNN and in such publications as Coastal Living, Essence, Southern Living, Smithsonian and over twenty-five others. MaVynne Betsch passed away on September 5, 2005 at age 70.

Here is the full article that most of this writing has been taken from – an account honouring her life and environmental work – MaVynne Betsch

“I am the freest person that you will ever meet.”

MaVynne Betsch