education0915rainbow

I’d be lying if I told you as a child, Reading Rainbow was my favorite television program…because it wasnt. Reading Rainbow was for the fat kid in dodgeball. Frankly, I wasnt concerned with anything that didn’t involve a dog playing piano, a bear that told bad  jokes , or a blonde, pig-tailed little girl who I suspected to be racist cause she never gave Grover any play. Everything I did, watched, said, or wanted to be revolved around muppets and muppet-like activity. Reading Rainbow only managed to pull my attention because it was the show before Sesame Street…and I didnt want to miss Super Grovers newest exploits!

It wasnt until I reached the sixth grade this show became relevant…

Kipapa Elm. Millilani, Hi.  (1991)-

Okay, so one day during a showing of what Im sure was some unreasonably boring educational video (perhaps something in black and white, explaining how Johnny had balls and Molly had filipino tubes; and the two became one and summoned the powers of the stork to deliver a baby along with the morning milk) I had managed to, once again, land myself some extra time clapping erasers. What happened was, a neighboring classmate had gotten out of her seat, and when she returned, I took advantage of being in a dark room and kicked the chair from under her as she tried to sit. Pretty funny, right? I thought so, too. Well, she ended up severly hurting her back as a result…and I saw some days in detention.

While serving my sentence, I ended up writing and illustrating a 10-12 page story, embarrassingly titled, “The One Black Hunchback .” The basic premise of the story was a kid nobody liked because of his obvious difference, who goes on to save the planet from impending peril, while tragically killing his love interest in the process. The villains were a  half robot/half cougar (school mascot)/half people creature…that surfed.  All and all, very predictable.

Anyhow, as I was finishing the cover, the guard on duty (Mr. Honda), snatched the book from my hand. I’m thinking, “Man, Mr. Honda, you a dick! Can a brotha at least get an extra pudding pop before I get the chair?”

He took the story from me and asked to hold on to it.

” Man, dang! I cant do nothin’ right!”

Anyway, next day, he gives it to the principal, who then calls me into his office. I thought for sure he was going to tell me I had done irreparable damage to homegirls back, and for the rest of her life she’d have to be tied to a bigwheel to go anywhere…and that my book was testament of my guilt.  Instead, he called to congratulate me on what I wrote. Told me I was given a [hawaiian word for gift], and that I should continue to work at it. It even sparked a more friendly approach to our previous Bart Simpson/ Seymour Skinner relationship.

“Word?”

When I got back to class (story in hand), Mr. Honda sung my praises before the room, and also requested that I continue to write…

It was at that point I sought out to actually watch Reading Rainbow. Cause I wanted to see what kids enjoyed reading, and how I could incorporate that into stories of my own. Then came the idea of somebody reviewing my book, after LeVar prefaced it with his signature line, “But dont take my word for it…”

For me, that was like “gettin on.” I was going to be a signed artist on Reading Rainbow.  “LeVar Burton Books in the buildin, son! We doin big thangs, its a movement, yo! HOV!” 

In the long run, the show became one of the leading inspirators for most of what I do now. More importantly, it encouraged my literacy. A gift of which I think is now far too under appreciated. To speak nothing of the merit I  believe is deserved of LeVar Burton. An African American male who championed child literacy for all youth. Beginning in a time not too far from when blacks were considered second rate citizens, which was not too far from a time when we were refused the tools to read, not too far from a time we where killed for knowing how to do so. If anything, that was/is a reason to be inspired on a whole different level. Plus, the nigga was Kunta Kinte in Roots! You cant sleep on that, son!

Two years ago, Friday, August 28th, 2009 was the final airing of the show.

Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high…

Readin’ a** nigg*s of Boktown, if anybody has any last words for LeVar, The Rainbow, or the butterfly in the sky….let them speak now…

3 comments

Jennifer Sherry

August 28th, 2011

O.K. so two things
#1) did you know that Levar Burton was driving through the charming Burg of Gilroy California in his Sensive BMW and was pulled over in an act of racial profiling by the Gilroy PD? This was in the early 90’s if I remember right.
# 2) My ( fatherless) child loved that show with a fiery passion and was inconsolable for an entire afternoon when I had to break the news to her that sadly no, Levar Burton was not her father

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