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Celebrating Local Black Heroes: Aniyah Johnson

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan is proud to celebrate Local Black Heroes throughout the year. Sign up for our to get updates in your inbox and learn more about the impact of local heroes in your community.

9th grader Aniyah Johnson is a local entrepreneur, student council treasurer at Kalamazoo Central High School, basketball player, advocate for social change, and heartfelt volunteer. Recognized in 2023 by Mothers of Hope as an Emerging Leader, Johnson received a prestigious award at the annual Black Women’s Roundtable Summit in Washington D.C.


Johnson looks to her mom, aunt, and grandmother for guidance: a group of women she calls her village. “They work behind the scenes supporting me and my business,” Johnson explains.

Her aunt, she shares, helps her with job and scholarship applications. Her grandmother helps keep things light and fun, even when the weight of her responsibilities feel heavy. Her mom, Tamarra, encourages her to try new things and is always willing to help her with Lily Kay’s, her skincare line.

I’m so thankful for my village,” Johnson shares. “They help me stay level-headed.”

Johnson is also inspired by Codie, her mentor through Brothers Big Sisters. The pair have been inseparable since meeting 9 years ago. “I didn’t know what to expect at first, but after all of these years, she’s like family,” Johnson explains.

On the left is an older photo of Aniyah and Codie with the word
After being matched for nearly a decade, Aniyah and Codie have built a friendship bigger than either of them ever imagined.


In May 2020, Johnson had a vision for a skincare line. Frustrated with expensive name-brand products that didn’t work for her, she saw a hole in the market and knew she could fill it. Motivated to make a change, Johnson sold her bike and babysat until she had enough money to launch the skincare line. Using a propriety blend that her mom created, Lily Kay’s was born.

Since then, Johnson has grown her business from body butter to a whole line of body scrubs, soaps, and more. Today, Johnson’s products ship worldwide and can be found at local vendor events. “I’m really proud of the way my business has grown,” Johnson shares.


Johnson impacts the community in many ways, but her mom would highlight her daughter’s inspirational impact above all. “When people find out she’s a business owner, they’re intrigued. She influences other youth to try new things and challenge themselves,” Tamarra explains.

Outside of her business, Johnson participates in the Jeter’s Leaders program, a highly selective leadership program that “transforms high school students who are role models in their communities into powerful agents of social change.” Johnson also volunteers at Mt. Zion Baptist Church and with Young Kings and Queens.

There’s a lot of light on youth because we are the future, but we don’t have to wait to do anything. School is always preparing us for the future, but why would we wait when we can make an impact right now? Aniyah Johnson


Inspired by her Big Sister Codie, a local lawyer and Michigan State University alumni, Johnson hopes to attend MSU and become a judge or a lawyer.

“But also, I might want to be a pediatrician or a veterinarian… I have lots of time to figure it out,” she smiles. For now, Johnson is content running her business, being involved in school, and taking care of her community.

When asked what she would like other youth to know, Johnson shares, “You don’t have to wait to do anything. You just have to ask for help and believe in what you can do.”