Arts & Entertainment

My Storytelling Heroes

LeVar Burton

Lesson time 10:02 min

Carrying on the work of our mentors preserves their legacy. LeVar introduces a few of his storytelling heroes and speaks about how authenticity and integrity are essential to being a natural storyteller.

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Topics include: My Mother, Erma Gene Christian · Storytelling Mentors


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Whenever I have the opportunity to speak my mother's name in public, I do. Erma Gene Christian was her name. And I know that I am the man that I am because she was the woman that she was. - My mother was an English teacher, and so in Erma Gene's house, reading was not optional. You were either going to read a book in my mother's home, or you were going to get hit with one. It was your choice, but you were going to have an experience with the written word. - My mother not only read to us-- I have two sisters-- she not only read to us when we were kids, she read in front of us. My mother was an avid, voracious reader. My mother was the first person in her family to attend college. And so that legacy of learning that she has forged in our family-- I mean, my-- my personal storytelling was largely shaped by my mother. - And it wasn't just her love of literature. It was her value system that she also taught and communicated to me while I was growing up. The idea that you put forth your best effort no matter what, that even if it's unpleasant, if it is yours to do, do it to the very best of your ability. - I was also taught that one's life really should be about something larger than oneself, that service was a really important aspect of being human. And after her first career as a teacher, my mother had a second career as a social worker. So I grew up in this environment where literature and service were stressed. - She also had a really strong intention to give us the tools that we needed to survive in this world, especially as Black children. My mother was really very clear that I would grow up and inherit a world that would sometimes be hostile to my presence simply because of the color of my skin. And what she wanted to do more than anything was give me the tools with which I could compete on a level playing field with what I call my melanin-challenged peers. - And so that was really important to me growing up, knowing that my life was not going to be easy necessarily, and that there would be challenges and struggles. But that as Erma Gene's son, I had the wherewithal to not just endure it all, whatever came my way, but that I could actually flourish in life, that I could actually find fulfillment, and be a part of that family tradition of teacher. [MUSIC PLAYING] - I've been incredibly blessed in my life to have had storytelling mentors that I've been able to learn from. Alex Haley was my first mentor. Alex Haley was probably the most authentic human being I've ever met. And what I learned from Alex is that every one has a particular voice, and that voice is informed by your life experience, as is your story. And to find your authentic voice is critically important. - And by way of example, I was with Alex many, many times when he was in public making a speech talking about "Roots" and his journey of writing the novel "Roots." And as often as I heard Alex tell that story, as...

About the Instructor

With his iconic roles in Roots and Star Trek: The Next Generation and 23 years as the host of Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton has left an indelible mark on our culture. Now the Emmy, Grammy, and Peabody winner is sharing his approach to storytelling so you can connect authentically with any audience. Learn how to find intention, use your voice, and mine your experiences to be a more effective and dynamic storyteller.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

LeVar Burton

Emmy winner and Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton teaches you his techniques for more dynamic, authentic storytelling.

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