Star Trek is known for breaking down barriers and bringing people together as much off-screen as on. Seizing on that influence, Nichelle Nichols may have been the first Trek alum to leverage her celebrity to promote real world change when she was hired by NASA to recruit new astronauts. (She even recruited Sally Ride.) Imagine going for an interview, and sitting down with Lt. Uhura!
Today, George Takei enjoys perhaps greater popularity as a gay rights activist than at any other time in his life. Patrick Stewart has become well known for his vocal support and outreach on domestic violence issues. And Bill Shatner is… well, he’s Bill Shatner.
Be sure to watch the hysterical promo video for the Kickstarter campaign below!
LeVar Burton’s time has arrived. Known worldwide for playing Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Burton had previously garned attention for playing Kunta Kinte on the 1977 TV mini-series Roots. He’s also been a cast-member on PBS’ Reading Rainbow since it began, back in 1983. So what’s he done to elevate his real-life persona to the cosmic heights of his peers? It’s a lot more grounded than Nichelle’s work, but still really impressive…
Reading Rainbow was cancelled in 2009. In an interview with Jessica Goldstein on ThinkProgress.com, Burton explains the government’s No Child Left Behind policy forced schools to make different choices in which programs got funded. Burton intends to change that.
He argues that before Reading Rainbow was cancelled it was the most used television resource in America’s classrooms. “So the idea that I am trying to somehow revive a failed endeavor is bullshit. That’s right. I said it. Bullshit.”
And, he’s got proof. Reading Rainbow has already created an iPad app, and it’s become the tablet’s #1 educational app for kids.
‘Crowdfunding’ has proven a very successful way for any niche project to find its fan-base and get off the ground when traditional venues for seed money don’t pan out.
In fact, when the people behind TV show Veronica Mars couldn’t get a film project off the ground, they turned to the show’s fans, via Kickstarter. With a goal of raising $2 million, the campaign went on to not only receive nearly $6 million in pledges, it also broke the Kickstarter record for most individual backers ever – over 91,000 of them.
Now a producer for Reading Rainbow, Burton got the idea to also reach out to fans, to fund a campaign to revive the show. But he want’s to do more. Given the digital realities of today, Burton wants Reading Rainbow not just in every classroom, but on every tablet, console, and smartphone out there.
Earlier this month, LeVar’s campaign went live. He was seeking $1 million to get the project off the ground. The goal? Originally, the campaign set out to fund delivery of Reading Rainbow and supporting materials to 1,500 classrooms, for free, as well as develop a web app so children can access the service at home.
The result? Like most campaigns, this one hoped to reach $1 million in pledges in 30 days. Burton and his team hit their goal in 11 hours. You can see his heartfelt reaction here:
Why stop there?
Kickstarter actually has a plan when things go insanely well: Stretch goals. Once the interest, and faith, in LeVar’s passion project was clear, the goal was raised to $5 million. With that, Reading Rainbow can expand the free service to 7,500 classrooms, and add apps for Android tablets, cellphones, and gaming consoles.
He’s almost there, and in a big way. As previously mentioned, the Veronica Mars campaign made history when it was backed by over 91,000 people. Last night, with just 2 days to go, this campaign was closing in on that mark.
This morning, Reading Rainbow became the most backed Kickstarter campaign ever. As of this writing, the campaign has 92,694 backers.
And, it isn’t just the average Joe who’s noticed. Coming down the home stretch, and as things naturally tend to slow a little, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane pledged to match every donation from $4 million to the end of the campaign – up to the stretch goal of $5 million. If Reading Rainbow reaches its goal, he’ll pony up an additional cool million bucks from his own pocket. (Note: despite his crass mainstream persona, MacFarlane is also an executive producer of another profoundly noble educational program, the recently rebooted Cosmos.)
You can help, and get some cool schwag to boot!
Anyone can donate, even a dollar. Anyone who donates $5 or more can choose from an enormous array of related merchandise and events. As simple as a Reading Rainbow bookmark, or stickers, as flashy as a signed poster, or collector’s edition watch, or as brassy as a personally recorded voice mail message or in person meet and greet, LeVar and his team demonstrate the incredible imaginations of the seasoned reader with rewards that boggle the mind.
There’s 46 hours left, so head on over to Kickstarter, and check out all the crazy stuff going on with this campaign.
And be sure to watch this promo video for the campaign. Aside from the fun Star Trek references, you’ll get endless pleasure seeing LeVar donning outfits from every era since Reading Rainbow began. From the slightly anachronistic, always unflattering 70’s gym shorts, to those totally awesome stone-washed jeans of the 80’s, or the futuristic form-follows-function outfits from ST:TNG, this video is worth the watch just to remember what was cool, or maybe you wore yourself back then.
Be apart of the solution. Get a t-shirt, or mug. Or, get passes to a private event.
And help kids everywhere. Donate to Reading Rainbow today!