Girl, 7, raises more than $20K to diversify schools' crayons and books

Madison Wilson noticed a lack of multicultural materials in her school and it drove her to make a difference.
Courtesy Tameka Vashti Wilson

After 7-year-old Madison Wilson noticed a lack of diversity in many of the books she's read and movies she’s watched, she felt compelled to make a difference in her community. In less than a month, the third-grader has raised more than $23,000 to help put multicultural educational materials in California schools.

Madison is donating one ream of multicultural construction paper, 25 boxes of multicultural crayons, several books and a Starbucks gift card to participating teachers across five different schools. All of the books feature diverse characters, and teachers are allotted an amount that allows them to choose from a list of Madison’s favorite titles, a list from two local bookstores or to request their own wishlist books.

Madison’s mother, Tameka Vashti Wilson, said the inspiration for the fundraiser came after Madison asked why there were not more people of color in Disney’s new “Maleficent” movie. She noticed similar patterns in other movies she watched, so she began to ask Wilson more questions about representation.

“I literally was trying my best to find movies where she could see herself represented.” Wilson told TODAY. “It was very hard to find anything.”

Wilson, 34, said the same questions came up about the books that were present at Madison’s school, Solvang Elementary in Solvang, California. So they decided to try and raise money for more inclusive materials.

The initial goal for the fundraiser was $2,500, and Wilson said she thought that was a little ambitious. However, they managed to meet their goal after only a day and a half, and support has continued to pour in from all over the globe.

“We’re very appreciative because she’s receiving messages from all around the world,” Wilson said. “Just all these different places of people reaching out and saying that they had similar feelings growing up or just congratulating her on what she’s doing and helping other children to feel appreciated and included.”

Madison is entering the third grade this yearCourtesy of Tameka Vashti Wilson

The messages have been one of Madison’s favorite parts about the fundraiser, and she said she thinks she is as famous as Beyoncé.

Wilson says she tries to teach her daughter that if she wants to be something, she can be.

“I constantly tell her how beautiful she is and how intelligent she is and how entrepreneurial and successful she is, and so my job is to affirm her as a person first before she sees herself in the mirror as only a Black person,” Wilson said. “First and foremost she is Madison. I call her Madison the magnificent.”

In fact, since Madison loves dinosaurs and wants to be a paleontologist, Wilson said she acts as the spokesperson and CEO for their family business, Dino Explorerz. The company sells organic dinosaur eggs and paleontologist toolkits, and it aims to encourage young girls to see themselves as scientists.

Madison wants to be a paleontologist and an equestrian when she grows upCourtesy of Tameka Vashti Wilson

Even though Madison is already busy excavating dinosaur fossils, given the immense amount of support her fundraiser has received, Wilson said they have decided to create a nonprofit called Madi’s Treasure Box so they can continue curating multicultural educational materials.

Wilson said the fundraiser has reached places she never could have imagined, and the experience has shown her the power that comes from taking progressive action and calling on the community for support.

“It is a perfect environment I think for people wanting to see positivity and progression,” she said, “and a child is kind of leading the way.”