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Celebrating Local Black Heroes: Yolonda Lavender

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.

Meet Yolonda Lavender: a determined trailblazer in our community who is adamant in her fight to be the change.

Currently serving as the Grant Program Manager for the Stryker Johnston Foundation, this is just one title on her impressive resume.

She is a small business owner of Soul Artistry LLC, a board member for First Day Shoe Fund, and in her previous position, she was the youngest to hold the position of Executive Director of the Black Arts and Cultural Center.

Mentors and Making a Difference

For years, Yolonda has been working tirelessly to make a difference, and to improve the lives of those she interacts with. When asked about who her mentor or specific influencer was, she said, “It’s been a collection of folks over time, from the women in my family to many people in the community…”

Yolonda has true empathy and passion for those in need. The First Day Shoe Fund provides low income students with much needed footwear.

Impact in the Arts

For 7 years, her small business has created opportunities for artists to showcase their work and earn an income; these artists might not otherwise have a platform to exhibit their artistic abilities.

And on a similar note, for 5 years she led the Black Arts and Cultural Center providing opportunities to learn and showcase the visual, performance, and youth arts in our community.

Prioritizing Self-Care as Revolutionary

When asked about how she hopes to impact youth in our community, she said, “I feel strongly about self-care, because Black women have a tendency to run themselves into the ground…I use myself as an example to be very intentional about self-care…” She hopes that as an example of self-care, she will inspire future generations to do the same, Black girls especially.


Her investment in our community, and to those whose voices need amplifying is commendable. Simply put, Yolonda Lavender wants to be remembered as someone who makes sure that, “Anything or anyone that I have ever encountered be left better than I found them…

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.