Third-grader Madison Wilson didn't see her skin color represented in the materials at her school, so she decided to do something about it.

Madison Wilson and her mom, Vashti
Madison Wilson and her mom Vashti are raising money on GoFundMe to purchase books and supplies for local schools.
| Credit: Courtesy of Vashti Tameka Wilson

As August inches closer, parents and children are already making their back-to-school lists, filling their online carts with crayons, books, and school supplies. But not all children see themselves represented in classroom materials: Madison Wilson, a 7-year-old from Solvang, California, is on a mission to make sure all children see their skin tones represented in crayon boxes and picture books this year. 

It all started earlier this year when Madison was watching the movie Maleficent II. Her mom, Vashti Tameka Wilson, told us that Madison jumped up and yelled "Finally, a brown person!" while watching the film. This sparked a conversation between Madison and Vashti about why movies and books tend to feature "peach" people, as Madison calls them. She was frustrated that there weren't more brown people in the books she was reading—so she decided to do something about it. 

Madison wants to be a paleontologist and equestrian when she grows up, but she noticed that in all the classroom books about different professions, none of the jobs are held by people of color. And since she loves to read, she decided to bring books with a diverse range of characters to her school. But books can be expensive, and she wanted to be sure each classroom in her school was equipped with books featuring a diverse range of races and ethnicities. 

So she began raising money to purchase the books. Over the last two months, she has also expanded her fundraising efforts to purchase Crayola's Colors of the World sets and packs of construction paper in all different shades of skin tones. 

The fundraiser is important because when children see people who look like them portrayed in books and media, they're able to see themselves in that role too. For example, reading a book about a black paleontologist would help Madison picture herself as one when she grows up.

"For children, being able to draw themselves accurately or read a book that has characters that look just like them provides a sense of belonging and helps them feel less isolated in the world," Vashti explains. This is especially important for children that might look different from a majority of their peers and helps children not to feel out of place. "Incorporating multicultural tools in schools gives children a voice and creates a sense of community in the classroom," Vashti says.

Vashti says the current pandemic has made the mission even more important because where they live in California, each student will be required to have their own set of materials to cut down on sharing between the kids—and that means an individual box of crayons for each student. "The teachers and students are thrilled to be recipients of this fundraising effort," she says. "The teachers are appreciative of the new tools and grateful that they don’t have to fund the cost out of their own pocket."

As for Madison, she's excited about the possibility of using these materials and sharing them with her classmates. "I think it will make my friends and me happy," she says. "We will all be able to draw ourselves like real people in all skin colors."

"I'm very proud of Madison," Vashti says. "Her mission will make many children happy and teach them about the importance of diversity and inclusivity."

So far, Madison has raised over $36,000 through a GoFundMe called Help Fill Madi's Treasure Box. If you'd like to help send supplies to a local school, she is still accepting donations but plans to stop taking donations before the school year begins so she can place orders for supplies. 

"Madison is a force to be reckoned with," Vashti says. "I want to support her in achieving all of her dreams so other girls of color can see that anything is possible."


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