Lilada Gee’s “I AM JOY” distributed to local children


Madison Arts Commission coordinates effort to get free copies into the hands of more youth

The Madison Arts Commission is pleased to announce a special printing and distribution of I AM JOY: Affirmation & Activity Book by Lilada Gee. I AM JOY: Affirmation & Activity Book is designed to inspire strong self-esteem in youth. The activities are great to do alone, with a friend, parent, guardian, or in a group.

Former Madison Poet Laureate and current member of the Madison Arts Commission, Poet Fabu, Phd, feels strongly that MAC should support Lilada Gee as an emerging artist and also encourage youth to express themselves and help themselves through the arts. She noted, “Lilada Gee's heartfelt work with healing Black girls and Black women is inspiring in the books she publishes.”

After purchasing a copy of I AM JOY at Lilada’s booth during MMoCA’s 2021 Art Fair on the Square, the City Arts team reached out to two community partners who provided significant support for the 2020 Downtown Street Art and Mural Project: The American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact (The Institute) and Madison Community Foundation (MCF). Both organizations have emphasized the need to continue to nurture the career development of those mural artists who wish to continue on their paths as artists and social entrepreneurs.

Together, the partners explored the idea of producing extra copies of I Am Joy and finding a way to distribute them free-of-charge to local children. Both the Institute and MCF agreed to fund the project and MCF reached out to American Printing to produce a limited run of 1000 books and connected with Madison Reading Project, who will distribute the donated books and art markers in the coming weeks. Deirdre Steinmetz, Program and Operations Director of Madison Reading Project, stated, “We are thrilled to be part of such an impactful partnership.  Madison Reading Project will be working with Black Girl Magic Educational Services, Girls Inc of Greater Madison and our summer program partners to share Lilada's beautiful artwork with children in Dane County.”

Rosa Thompson, Founder and Executive Director of Black Girl Magic Educational Services, shared that “Black Girl Magic Educational Services is very excited to receive Lilada Gee's coloring books to give out to participants at the Verona and Madison Black Girl Magic Conferences in April and May. Each participant who attends a Black Girl Magic Conference receives a special swag bag with books and other items that reflect the magic of Black girls. Lilada Gee's coloring book is a beautiful representation of Black girlhood and the perfect way to encourage our girls to keep celebrating their Black Girl Magic!”

Tom Linfield of MCF stated, “The Madison Community Foundation is pleased to fund this special project, which celebrates a local artist and will engage and delight many young people. We are thrilled to be part of a partnership with the artist, The City, American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, American Printing, and the Madison Reading Project, all of which stepped up to collaborate and make this happen.”

Nyra Jordan, a Social Impact director with The Institute explained why they supported the project, “Lilada Gee’s work in I AM JOY and Let’s Talk About It align with what The Institute and American Family Insurance stand for; empowering youth and closing equity gaps in our communities.” said Jordan. “We are happy to continue to support Lilada Gee and her work in the future.”

“Lilada Gee’s I Am Joy provides children with a powerful tool for emotional healing and affirmation as they process the challenges of recent years. I’m grateful to Lilada for her beautiful artwork and for continually working with us to help support our community’s recovery and create a more equitable and healthy City.” Stated Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

Lilada Gee is a Madison-based author, artist, public speaker, and community advocate who has committed her life to the defending of Black girlhood and the healing of Black women. In addition to her activity book series, Lilada is the author of I Can’t Live Like This Anymore!, a powerful tool to empower survivors take back their lives. With more than 30 years in the fields of education and social services, Lilada founded Black Woman Heal—a Madison based non-profit organization that inspires Black women to join her in her life’s work to defend Black girlhood, by creating safe places for Black girls as well as themselves, to heal.

This edition of I AM JOY: Affirmation & Activity Coloring Book was made possible by:

American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, a venture capital firm and partner of choice for social entrepreneurs and capacity builders working to close equity gaps across America;

Madison Community Foundation, who exist to enhance the common good through philanthropy;

American Printing, who produced other books for Lilada and value supporting local non-profits;

The Madison Reading Project (MRP), an organization that connects our community with free books and literacy resources that ignite a love for reading and affirm and reflect the diversity of young readers;

The Madison Arts Commission (MAC), an 11-member citizen commission appointed by the Mayor to advise the City about matters of arts and culture. MAC’s mission is to foster arts appreciation by initiating partnerships, developing new audiences, and sponsoring diverse artistic activities by emerging and established artists and arts organizations while preserving Madison’s rich artistic tradition. To support a full creative life for all, The Madison Arts Commission commits to championing policies and practices of cultural equity that empower a just, inclusive, equitable city.



The text I AM JOY in all caps in light pink on a yellow, blue and pink background. Below the text is an illustration of a young Black person with no eyes surrounded by floating hearts and flowers.
Artist Lilada Gee smiling at the camera, documented in front of one of her murals
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