Mariano Avila

Inclusion Reporter

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
Mariano was born in Mexico City, Mexico, where he learned the value of civic engagement and public discourse. His life and work have taken him from refugee camps in Palestine to garbage-dump communities in Egypt, Guatemala, and Mexico. He has met presidents and dignitaries from several countries, as well several international celebrities.
Mariano is a graduate of Calvin College and has an MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson.

Mariano Avila / WGVU

The rain holds off but the clouds cool the thousands who gathered at Cannonsburg Ski Area. Whole families, with spreads ranging from traditional home-cooked meals to chopped fruit and soft drinks. Half or more of the audience is Latino, a rarity for symphony concerts, though not surprising given that the symphony is performing with the best Mariachi in the world, and their joint conductor for the day Nathaniel Espinoza.

“The board of the Grand Rapids Symphony they wanted to get together both cultures, Mexican, Latin cultures, and the American culture of course.”

Mariano Avila / WGVU

“Mino Bimaadiziwin is a story about a young, trans-gender Anishnaabe man who has lost all connection to his culture living in the city. Until one day this mysterious Anishnaabe woman, Bungishimogikwe, comes into his life and kind of introduces him back into the culture and the community.”

That’s Shane McSauby, writer and director of the film who calls Grand Rapids home.

Mariano Avila / WGVU

Thousands marched from Garfield Park to the Calder Plaza as part of the “Day Without Immigrants” demonstration in Grand Rapids. 

It felt more like an improvised rally than a protest. Row after row made the three-mile trek to the sounds of drums.


And the usual chants.

But of course, it wasn't a rally. 

-"We are here with Carla Barbei, she's one of the organizers of the march 'A Day Without Immigrants."

Shafer Photography / Shafer Photography

Grand Rapids has a new poet laureate! The Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation announced today that Marcel Price, better known as Fable the Poet, will be our new ambassador of letters. However, more interesting is that he is the first laureate of color, the first one under age 40 and the first one without a college degree. Yet, his career speaks for itself, as he tours the country regularly with his poems. For WGVU’s Mutually Inclusive, Mariano Avila brings us this extended interview with Fable.


Shafer Photography / Shafer Photography

The new Grand Rapids Poet Laureate is the first person of color, first person under forty years of age, and the first laureate without a four-year degree.

The Grand Rapids Public Library made its announcement Tuesday morning naming Marcel Price, or Fable, the city’s poet laureate, not just because he’s published a book of poems or won awards, but because of his vision for bringing poetry to everyone in Grand Rapids.  

“There’s poetry shows almost every single night of the week in our city and people don’t know that.”

A government ethics watchdog says it has filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against congressman Justin Amash and White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino over a twitter feud.

Ahmad Khodor

Ahmad Khodor, a Grand Rapids man born and raised in Syria, says he blames President Bashar Al Assad and the indifference of Western countries for the recent gas bombing of civilians that left between 60-100 people dead.

Khodor has been living in Michigan for over 30 years. He has graduate degrees from University of Michigan and Grand Valley State University and finally settled here in Grand Rapids. Still living in the country he called home until age 33, Khodor says has extended family, as well as friends living in Syria.

Disart / Disart

Jill Vyn, managing director DiArt has been employing a range of strategies to change perceptions around disability through art that centers disability or artists with disabilities

“We  do that, as an organization, through curated experiences and strategic partnerships in our community. Just really focused on trying to create a more welcoming and inclusive community as a whole.”

One of their staple programs is the “Disability Arts Now Symposium,” which will happen this Thursday through Saturday, April 6-8 at the Art Prize Hub on Sheldon.

Mariano Avila / WGVU

The Sikh community is often a mistaken target of Islamophobia, which is why Simran Jeet Singh, a high-profile member of the Sikh community in the United States, came to West Michigan to discuss what he calls a new racial group in post-911 America. 

“Part of my religious identity as a Sikh is a turban, uncut hair, so I have a beard. And so for my entire life, growing up, people have perceived me to be Muslim, based on their stereotypes of what a Muslim looks like.”

Mariano Avila / WGVU

Undocumented Michigan residents have been receiving scam calls from people posing as Immigration officials demanding money. 

[Ring, ring]

It sounds legit:

“You’ve reached the Superior Court of California County of Riverside...”

It’s unclear how, but the callers find numbers for undocumented immigrants and tell them that if they don’t pay $400 plus  for ESL classes, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, or ICE, will deport them. Which is what happened to one undocumented Michigander who immediately called his lawyer, Pamela Davies.