Arts & Entertainment

Who Tells Your Story

LeVar Burton

Lesson time 16:44 min

In his concluding lesson, LeVar emphasizes the importance of representation in storytelling, including how stories can help you connect and empathize with others—and how boldly sharing your own truth makes the world better.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Representation Matters · Speak Up, Speak Out · Sharing Stories Creates Understanding · The Storyteller Is a Truth Teller


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I believe representation matters because it's really difficult to form a healthy self-image unless you can see yourself reflected in popular culture. I grew up in an era where it was rare to see Black people on TV and in magazines. The places where I saw Black people represented were on the news, especially during the Vietnam War era, where the majority of our soldiers being sent into the theater of war were young Black men, and, you know, on TV in less than elevated positions in society. Representation matters. You know, Alex Haley used to say-- and I know people have said it before him and many after him-- history is written by the winners. He who controls the narrative controls reality. Right? So the notion that there are voices that are a part of the conversation that are absent is exactly why representation matters. This experiment that we are currently engaged in was designed, I believe, to include all of us, that we would not get the full value of being human unless and until we were able to value everyone's contribution. And we haven't gotten there yet. There have been flashes. And so representation has to be at the forefront of our experience of storytelling and communicating because we aren't meant to leave anybody out of the conversation. When I was growing up, it was almost unheard of to see people dealing with physical challenges as a part of a narrative storytelling in popular culture. You just didn't see, necessarily, people in wheelchairs. I think Raymond Burr as "Ironside" was the first time in my lifetime that I can remember a person in a wheelchair, not that the wheelchair defined the character. But what I was experiencing was a person who lived their life from a wheelchair and how it was possible to live a completely fulfilling existence from a chair. Those kinds of examples in our storytelling normalize the vast breadth of human experience that can tend to be put aside, that can tend to be marginalized by the virtue of the infrequency with which we encounter them. Being someone who represented the sightless and the visually challenged on "Star Trek"-- it gave so many people-- you have no idea how many times a week I hear from someone that they felt seen and represented, that Geordi was important for them because he spoke for them. He was a proxy for them. They could see themselves in him. Absent representations of ourselves, it is hard as a human being to develop a healthy self-image. [MUSIC PLAYING] By not limiting our individual voices, we are contributing to the great tapestry that is storytelling on this planet at this particular time in our history. By not allowing our voices to be silenced by ensuring that we speak up and speak out, we are staking a claim to a piece of the conversation. Right? The idea that no one can silence my voice that I don't give permission to in the silencing. I have to cooperate with your ability to silence me today in order for my voi...

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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