Like so many annual events and fundraisers that light up San Antonio’s social and cultural landscape — often vital to their sponsoring organizations — Renaissance with the Stars is set to return to the Tobin Center Aug. 21, following a coronavirus-imposed year off.

Renaissance 2021 John Martin

A key fundraising event for the San Antonio Area African American Community Fund (SAAAACF), a charitable community fund of the Area Foundation, Renaissance with the Stars is patterned after the long-running TV series Dancing with the Stars, with two major differences: Renaissance is for a good cause, and it’s meant as the name suggests, to embody the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance, New York City’s renowned artistic period.

Renaissance 2021 Ondrejia-Scott

Here’s how Renaissance works: San Antonio CEOs, elected officials, community advocates and church leaders volunteer to compete (in tandem with a professional dancer) in support of SAAAACF. Then, audience members (virtual or in-person) get to watch the show and be a part of the action — and the altruism — by donating before or during the show in support of their favorite dancer.

Bobby Blount, Chairman of the SAAAACF Board of Directors, said that the organization is “ecstatic” to be back in the groove.

“In a time period with difficult challenges, we want to give everyone a moment to smile as our Star Dancers and their professional dance partners give their all, in service of our community,” Blount said.

Renaissance 2021 Lisa-Brunsvold

This year’s slate of dancers includes realtor Lawrence G. Chretien, professor and community advocate John Martin, community activist Ondrejia Scott, educator Andrea Nicholas and Lisa Brunsvold, the Area Foundation’s Vice President for Development and Donor Services.

We caught up with a few of the dancers to find out what they each admire about SAAAACF in general and Renaissance in particular.

Renaissance 2021 Andrea-Nicholas

Brunsvold, for her part, said that she’s watched in awe, year after year, as the dancers “worked tirelessly” in support of SAAAACF’s endeavor to “enhance the quality of living of the African American community in San Antonio.”

While she never imagined herself literally getting in on the dancing action per se, she is having a good time practicing and happy “to support the work.” As far as her skills as a dancer, she’s not making any promises, but will “let the audience be the judge of that!”

Nicholas also expressed an eagerness to give her time to “assist an organization with accomplishing its mission.”

“Also,” NIcholas added, “it’s a fun way to physically and mentally take care of myself.”

Renaissance 2021 Lawrence-Greg-Chreteien

Chretien said that he’s “honored to have been chosen to be a competitor” and he seems undaunted by the fact that he’s had barely over a dozen dance sessions to develop his moves.

He said that he’s eager to support SAAAACF because he has “personally witnessed this program in action,” in terms of offering “grants to many area nonprofits to help continue growth and development in the community.”

On a personal note, Chretien is also dancing for his children, who, like most of us, have had a rough last year and a half due to the lingering impact of the pandemic.

“I am extending myself so that they can see me doing the same thing that I ask them to do,” he said. “Take a leap of faith, learn something new, dare to fail in order to be successful, accept the discomfort and grow through it. Most importantly, I want them to understand and appreciate how giving back affects our community.”

For more information about this year’s Renaissance competitors, and to vote for your favorite, you can visit their individual Renaissance pages: ChretienMartinScottNicholas and Brunsvold

Learn more how the San Antonio Area Foundation promotes philanthropy by and for under-represented and under-served communities in the San Antonio area through the San Antonio African American Community Fund.

James Courtney is a San Antonio freelance writer and part of the San Antonio Area Foundation and Communications Department’s new Storytelling Ambassadors contributor network.