This tribute is to a magnificent, great and absolutely astounding lady who overcame the many odds that confronted her. Born in 1941, Marva Sprauve-Browne was the daughter of Eunice Canton Sprauve and Dr. Gehardht Sprauve. Sprauve-Browne graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School in 1957. She enrolled at Morgan State College and graduated in 1962.
While at Morgan State, Sprauve-Browne participated in various lunch counter sit-in demonstrations. Fighting for equal rights on the mainland using acts of civil disobedience gave her the tools to promote the basis of the Free Beach Movement. She is remembered throughout the Virgin Islands by local peoples for the Free Beach Movement, and the ability for all Virgin Islanders to go to and enjoy local beaches without having to pay to enjoy its natural beauty. The Free Beach Movement was not a popular movement initially as it was frowned upon by the government due to external investments.
As stipulated in the 1916 treaty between Denmark and the United States, that once the islands were transferred to the United States on March 31, 1917, all the beaches and shorelines of the Virgin Islands were to remain free and open to all Virgin Islanders. However, by the late 1960’s the local population were kept off the beaches using various means including but not limited to: the use of dogs, fences, guns, etc. As a solution to the Free Beach Issue, a tri-island Citizen’s Committee for Free Beaches for All or a Free Beach Committee was formed in 1970. After hard work, due diligence and much assistance from the organizers and our community, the Open Shoreline Act/Bill No. 4849 was passed in May 1971. While still ambiguous, the law asserted that the public has the right to use and enjoy the shorelines and beaches throughout the islands.
Sprauve-Browne’s great desire for the people of the Virgin Islands to eat nutritionally and healthily was portrayed by her refusal to work for Universities in the continental US, because she wanted to give back to her community. She endeavored to teach full time at the University of the Virgin Islands. The leadership of the University coupled with the leadership of the Virgin Islands did not want her assistance due to the politics stemming from her involvement with the Citizens Committee and the Free Beach Movement. Her steadfast love for the Virgin Islands through her actions ruffled the feathers of those politicians who benefitted from a system of inequality.
The University’s leadership along with the governmental leadership at this time were known for their deceitful promises and nuances as they promised her in the hearing of the public (via local news) that they were unable to procure the funds necessary to pay for her expertise. Being ever the optimist and problem solver, she was able to procure and raise the funds for her employment through other entities such as Universities, or contacts through the American Dietician Association (ADA).
Although the university and the local government responded, “Yes”, to the potential of a Nutrition/Dietician Curriculum at the university, they believed that it would be a difficult task to accomplish. They counted on the possibility that Dr. Sprauve-Browne would not be able to deliver on this task. She was, however able to secure the funds for the first 6 years. Upon releasing this information to the University of the Virgin Islands and the VI Government, more excuses why they would not hire her were made. This was a shame and shines a bright spotlight on one reason why the government of the Virgin Islands and many of its institutions as a whole have a hard time making decisions in the best interest of our community.
Dr. Marva Sprauve Browne was a wonderful mother who devoted and invested her time in raising her children and teaching them the skills that they would need to navigate through the various stages of life. We give much thanks to the Creator for her love, dedication and various habits that she ingrained within us. She lived and taught by example. She was a quiet warrior, who never gave up, and showed her dedication through her actions, as well as her quiet, strong and loving words.
Her soft infectious smile, can do attitude, dedication to success and her devotion to be the best she could be for herself and her family were the attributes that those who knew her. Many who spent time with her hold dear memories when thinking and speaking about her. She was a shining light of hope, the best mother children could have, a wonderful daughter to her parents, a marvelous sister to her siblings and a caring and spectacular aunt and friend to those near her. She was a shining example to those who knew her as well as to those who have only heard or read about her.
It is true that Dr. Marva Sprauve Browne was treated unjustly and lied to publicly because of her activism to assist the people of the Virgin Islands by the V.I. government and University of the Virgin Islands. Because of her political and personal stance and views that were aimed to help Virgin Islanders were not in harmony with the local establishment, she was demonized. In light of that, she still was a pillar in Virgin Islands society and contributed greatly to the moral fabric.
Dr. Browne stood tall for the principles that counted and ensured that even in her very busy days, and short time on this earth, that she devoted time to ensure that her children studied the Hebrew Scriptures daily, were well versed in local, international and Caribbean history, learned critical thinking and learned to be resilient.
She was a wonderful Mom and we give thanks for her great example that she showed directly or indirectly each and every day. It has been thirty years since Dr. Marva Sprauve Browne became an Ancestor. May she Rest in Power and continue to empower the heroes and sheroes of our community.
Submitted by the Children of Dr. Marva Sprauve-Browne,
Coalesce, Caleb and Caroline