Maya Angelou Once Scolded LeVar Burton for Killing a Bug

LeVar Burton has had a great week on the Internet. His Reading Rainbow Kickstarter blew through its initial fundraising goal and is currently closing on $3 million—with 33 days to go. So after getting everyone choked up over his gratitude, he popped by Reddit for a celebratory AMA.

He titled it: "I'm LeVar Burton, But You Don't Have to Take My Word For It — Ask Me Anything!" LeVar, you are KILLING US.


For starters, he appreciates even the smallest donations: "Please stop apologizing everybody for only being able to give a dollar! I get it, I know how tight times are - I understand. The fact that you feel it's important at all to part with your hard-earned cash means the WORLD to me."

He also talked about their efforts to make sure the original Reading Rainbow was as diverse as it could be:

Literature that portrayed women in non-traditional roles, literature that reflected a culturally and racially diverse world, we made it part of our mission to really talk to our audience of children as equals, as people. And the very first episode of Reading Rainbow was based on a book called Tight Times, about a kid whose father lost his job in a tough economy and how that family dealt with that shift in their reality.

"We never shied away from tough subjects, and we always dealt with them in what we believed to be an age-appropriate manner," he added. "We always respected our audience. And I'm very proud of that."

Perhaps best of all, he told an amazing story about being scolded by Maya Angelou on the set of Roots:

some giant bug came crawling into the hut, and it was Dr. Maya, Cicely Tyson, me and a young girl as well. I was a 19 year old kid, and didn't know a whole lot. I thought it was my responsibility to kill this bug to protect the women in that moment. And Maya lit into me something fierce. And I have NEVER forgotten that look. And she said "just because you are larger than a thing gives you no right to think you have control over its life or death. Because you are larger and more powerful means you have a responsibility to protect all life." And that was certainly a lesson that I needed to hear on that day.


Not sure whether that would count as the peak (because life lessons from Maya Angelou!) or nadir (because being yelled at by Maya Angelou!) of one's life.

In a handy illustration of the weirdness of fame, he's often recognized in the men's room:

When somebody suddenly looks to their left or right, and realizes "OH MY GOD IT'S LEVAR BURTON." The fear is always there that they will forget what they are doing, and pee all over my leg. But then they forget themselves, and they usually want to shake my hand, so it's a little awkward.


Over the years, he's gotten pretty good at predicting where a fan comes from: "These days, I have sort of become pretty good at doing a quick read - is this a ROOTS fan, a Star Trek fan, a Reading Rainbow fan." Presumably he knows the last group because before he sees them, he hears them shouting, "BUTTERFLY IN THE SKKYYYYYY!!!"

It's also reassuring to know that despite his utter reinvention and rise to Internet fame, TNG cast members are still giving Wil Wheaton just a little bit of shit. Asked about his preferred beverage, Burton replied, "I'm a beer guy, I like beer. I'm not a beer snob, like/u/wil," and proceeded to razz him about refusing to drink PBR.


LeVar Burton: a literacy hero who still takes the time to keep Wesley Crusher in line.

Photo via Getty.

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