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The Opening Exhibit "The Sands of Time: An American Beach Story" is the realization of a longtime dream held by MaVynee Betsch, who passed away in 2005. Known far and wide as the Beach Lady, Betsch was an historian, activist and environmentalist. She was also the great granddaughter of American Beach's founder, A.L. Lewis, president of the Afro American Life Insurance Company.
Lewis founded American Beach in 1935 as a place of relaxation and recreation for African Americans. Providing an escape from the stress of racism and segregation for generations of devoted beach-goers, American Beach quickly became both a desirable destination and a richly-evolving community on Florida's beautiful Amelia Island. For decades, the Beach Lady was an iconic figure on the island, championing environmental causes and the preservation of the island's history, culture and stories. The success of American Beach -- and Betsch's passion for the community and its heritage -- is a captivating story that makes for a fascinating exhibit at the new museum.
Carol J. Alexander, the Project Director and Curator of the museum stated today that "…following in the Beach Lady's footsteps in the sand has been a spiritual and dedicated journey. This inaugural exhibition has been guided by her notes on pages, her voice in the wind over the ocean and her spiritual energy that lingers in every crystal of sand on American Beach. It is an honor and privilege for me as "her spiritual daughter" to guide, curate and manage this project."
The inaugural exhibition, The Sands of Time: An American Beach Story, will feature the history of American Beach, photographs, a filmed tour of the beach by the Beach Lady, along with her signature seven-foot locks of hair. There will be a media preview of the film on September 5th at 11am.
Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, sister of the Beach Lady will attend and speak at the opening ceremony. "My sister, MaVynee Oshun Betsch, "The Beach Lady," was a force! Without her vision, determination and bodaciousness, in cahoots with those whom were willing to join her in a righteous struggle, there would be no American Beach as we know and enjoy it today. It is with deep pride and joy that all of us in the A.L. Lewis family celebrate the opening of this museum. We are grateful to everyone who has worked to make the dream of this museum a reality."