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Celebrating Local Black Heroes: Kandace Lavender (Video)

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan is proud to celebrate Local Black Heroes in honor of Black History Month. Please join us on social media and throughout the month on our website to learn more about the impact local heroes have in your community.

Kandace Lavender covers Lauryn Hill’s “Freedom Time” for KRESA in October 2020, accompanied by Ivan Akansiima

Kandace Lavender is an internationally known poet, vocalist, hip-hop lyricist, and special education educator. She speaks volumes figuratively through her actions, and literally through her words.

Performing around the world over the past 10 years, Lavender has opened for artists like J. Cole, Talib Kweli, Nas, Damien Marley, OutKast, The Roots, Raekwon of Wu Tang Clan and a long list of others.

“I feel God-led as a Black female educator.”

She brings her musical and lyrical talents to the classroom and uses them to bridge the gap between people. She encourages her students to take ownership of their education, find positive ways to contribute to their communities, and to build their self-esteem and self-awareness.

With a heart for kids with social, emotional and academic needs, Lavender not only teaches for Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS), but also volunteers to assist teachers and parents with kids who need extra support to help those with special needs succeed. Not having a specific title for herself, she said, “I feel God-led as a Black female educator.”

Education and Educating

Her own journey starts with education. At Western Michigan University, she received a Bachelor’s in Secondary Education for both English and Spanish, and a Master’s in Special Education. Driven to learn and grow even more, she is now working on her Doctorate in Education at Michigan State University.

Lavender also works as a Teaching Artist and Educational Specialist, using her musical talents to connect with her students and help ignite their power and potential. Aspiring to work on a national and international level, she continues to gain experience and build her brand, the Teacher Cypher, LLC. This is her stage, used to send messages of love, peace, political awareness and hope to everyone listening.

On Legacy

When asked about her legacy, she said, “Anyone who is in this work only cares about the work continuing once they are gone. Did Anna Whitten care about a building being named after her, or the work that goes on inside that building?”

Find Local Black Heroes throughout the month of February on social media and on our website and visit for more information about how you can ignite the power and potential of youth in Southwest Michigan.