People across the nation celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in many ways, however, the 5th annual Literary Empowerment Networking Summit (LENS), held a special occasion where a panel of authors shared their books relating to the topic at a luncheon while two interviewers asked them questions about their writing and motivation. The luncheon also began with the donation of scholarships to two Texas universities, as a way to further influence the future of education. The event was held in downtown San Antonio on January 14, 2023, and was full of literary insight and appreciation for MLK Jr.’s legacy.
“LENS is an organization that creates a platform for published authors to showcase their work, to market their literary achievements, to various communities; to explore and expose people to new ideas; to allow presentations of different views, and promote dialogue among diverse audiences with varying interests, like all of us here”, Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy said. “In so doing, we hope that we encourage literacy the scholarship is a very big part of it, and I think that by enabling our students’ access to education, we open so many doors for them”.
The event started out with the presentation of two scholarships, one to St. Phillips College, and one to Our Lady of the Lake University. The scholarships were in the name of Nathaniel William Davis, the former president of the San Antonio Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation. The executive director of the foundation, Dr. Tonja Nelson, was not able to present, so the scholarships were granted to the colleges by the foundation’s Community Relations Director, Kathleen Stigers, along with Davis’ wife, Marie Davis. The scholarship to St Phillips College was 500 dollars for 5 years, and the scholarship to Our Lady of the Lake University was 1,000 dollars for 5 years.
“We still have many students that are first generation. The first in their families to go to college, so this scholarship is transformational when you think about the impact that it has when one student in the family gets a college degree,” St. Phillips College President Dr. Adena Williams Loston said. “It affects that generation, and the next generation, and the next generation.”
These scholarships are a big part of why LENS holds this summit because it offers a way to shine a light on education and knowledge. It is part of the motivation for the committee, and the colleges that receive them.
“Like Dr. Loston mentioned, this is an opportunity for us to provide access to our students,” Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. George Williams said. “Those dreams are now becoming more of a reality because of these funds.”
There were five authors in person at the luncheon, and two were virtual. The two authors who were virtual were non-fiction writer Charlise Lyles and fiction writer Anastasia Higginbotham. The authors in person were non-fiction writers John Harris, Dominique Anderson, Jamison Charles, and educator Dr. Mateen Ajala Diop, and children’s books writer and educator Rhonda Brown. All of these books contained insight into culture and society, as well as personal experiences.
“My books are to affirm children. I’m an educator, I’ve been an educator for over 30 something years. I work with the little ones, and I believe that if you instilled it in them; that they’re great, they were created for a purpose, they’re here for a purpose; if you do that when they’re little[….],” Brown said. “As it’s stated in there [book], diversity is not a bad thing, it shouldn’t be a hindrance, but if you do it when they’re young, then they learn how to socialize, and mingle, and be with each other, no matter what they’re race, color, or creed.”
The questions started, and the authors each gave their own perceptions and stories behind their books. This included discussion on their message and what they have found through their own experience.
“If we believe first and go into the classroom, that belief is going to go into the children,” Diop said. “That’s the hardest thing about being an educator; is getting the adults to believe”.
The whole purpose of organizations like LENS is to be able to get the public involved in important issues and to bring communities together and share ideas. The committee hopes to continue this event every year and to bring some knowledge and inspiration to people across the city.
“We are so grateful that you all decided to spend your afternoon with us,” LENS director Rose Bean said. “We are excited about the direction LENS is moving toward.”