LeVar Burton is my Reading Rainbae, and yesterday he said my name during his live Twitter reading session!
LeVar Burton needs no introduction, but in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 40 years, here’s a quick introduction. The acclaimed actor, producer, author, literary advocate and cultural icon has been an influential fixture in American entertainment for as long as I’ve been alive. Longer. You might recognize him from the indelible roles he’s played, such as Kunta from the TV adaptation of Roots, or as Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: TNG. However it’s far more likely that your familiarity with LeVar (I can call him that because we’re on a first name basis now) stems from his role as the host of Reading Rainbow, the beloved PBS series that introduced three generations of young viewers to the joy of reading, introducing them to new books and authors in every episode.
I don’t know a 40+year-old person alive who doesn’t wish that they’d an opportunity to be featured on Reading Rainbow. (A likely result of our general latchkey upbringing.) The introductory song was – and remains – straight FIRE. Try it now. Walk up to any flock of 80’s babies and whisper these words into the horde.
“Butterfly in the sky…”
Then watch as everyone whips around and screams in exultant ecstasy:
“I CAN FLY TWICE AS HIIIIGGGHHH!”
Reading Rainbow aired its final episode in 2006, but that hasn’t stopped LeVar from sharing his gift with we, the grateful masses. Today he hosts a podcast, simply entitled LeVar Burton Reads on Stitcher. Reading Rainbow has also found a new home on an app, which is really special for millions of parents like me who have had an opportunity to introduce one of our most beloved childhood heroes to our own children. But an app just isn’t as interactive as a TV show. It lacks a certain element of humanity, a connection to the host, in seeing a familiar face sharing stories with you as you walk along a beach or swing at the park together. As I steadily and reliably aged out of that demographic, I knew that my chances on being on Reading Rainbow were going from slim to zilch. Instead I channeled my energy to slavishly following LeVar on all his platforms, hungrily devouring his content; even the digital morsels like the quick “Good morning y’all” he thoughtfully flings out on Twitter provide me delight. It’s one of life’s disappointments that we all have to contend with. After all, I’m no more special than anyone else…
!!!EXCEPT I AM!!!
For you see, yesterday I was on his live feed as he read from Jason Reynolds’ YA book Look Both Ways, expressing my thanks for gracing us with the gift of his comforting voice, thrusting a flurry of hearts his way, lobbing the occasional reaction emoji at the appropriate time. You know. Fan shit. And then finally, the session came to its conclusion as LeVar turned to the last page of the book and gently pressed the hardcovers together.
“Let’s just check in one last time to see who’s here…Ummm…*Abeenah Ghyay-Kay…”
Wait. Did LeVar Burton just say MY name? (Or some semblance of it.) Is this really happening? Wide-eyed, I turned to my husband, who was watching with me, for confirmation.
“Did that just happen?”
“Yes it did!”
Body rolls and fist pumps and pelvic pops ensued.
“This is just like when I walked at graduation to receive my degree and Chancellor What’s Her Name destroyed my name. What a historic moment!”
“It’s too bad you couldn’t record this moment,” he said, regret tingeing his statement.
Ahhh, but you see Twirra has a little something called the replay on its platform, so that’s what I DID. Brrrraaap!
View this post on Instagram
The internet is a place where dreams come true in this era of Ba Rona. LeVar Burton said ***my name*** during his live read. He massacred it, but for the briefest of moments, the words “Abena Gyekye“ were in my reading heroes mouth. 🤩🤩🤩 That’s all that matters. Even my reflexive immigrant indignation recognized the magnitude of this moment and fell silent! I don’t know a soul alive that doesn’t absolutely adore this man!
Save some extenuating circumstances, this is the closest to being on Reading Rainbow that I’m ever going to get, and it’s good enough for me. More than enough, in fact.
LeVar Burton has inspired countless legions of people to do better in their dedicated craft or mission – myself included. Sometimes I like to imagine his smiling face peering over my shoulder, nodding his silent approval. He’s the Ying to my Mr. Quist’s Yang, for whom nothing is ever good enough. Which is comforting in a strange way. You’d have to be an HGIC student to understand this sentiment.
Anyways, LeVar Burton said my name and in a strange way, I have the pandemic – and my own self-discipline – to thank for it. Had I been in disobedience of the lockdown order, I’d certainly be out in these COVID streets missing my destiny; missing what God had promised for me. Roshatatatbaba!!
Did I ever tell you that one of my pipe dreams is to become a narrator for audio books? Did you know I have a series on IG called The Reading Room? I started it to keep busy during these Quarantine Times. If you have the time, come on over and check it out! Together we read random items from ‘round my house during this time of ‘Rona.
Be safe everyone. Wash your hands, wear your masks and be kind to one another. And remember, your dreams are still valid, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Try to find any sparks of light where you can.
*My name is Abena Gyekye, pronounced ab-i-nah jet-chee