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

About 300 people held a demonstration in Downtown Grand Rapids yesterday to protest President Donald Trump and his policies.

People showed up at 4:00 p.m. Monday for the "Not-my-president’s-day demonstration," called by the Facebook group Indivisible West Michigan. By 4:30, about 150 people brake into civil right’s songs.

The chants begin by invoking the right to protest.

[Call: “Tell me what democracy looks like”]

[Response: “This is what democracy looks like]

Then come chants decrying the administration’s immigration and refugee policies.

Mariano Avila / WGVU

If your favorite taco joint is closed today or half of your Hispanic employees don’t show up to work, it’s because they’re on a national strike against mass deportations and the current administration’s immigration policy. I talked to two local women. First, is Idalia Tinoco, she owns a chicken joint off 28th Street called “La Casa del Pollo Loco,” which today is closed.

[Tinoco in Spanish]  “The purpose is to make clear all that we contribute to this country.”

Idalia and her staff will all stay home for the day, but she says it’s more involved than just time off.

Layth Alhaidary / WGVU

As the battle between the White House and federal courts continue over the executive order banning entry for people from seven Muslim-majority countries, we decided to look at the way that this is affecting people in West Michigan. 

MA: Can you tell me why you left Iraq?

[Martin: Arabic]

[BS: translator] I left Iraq because the war was getting worse and our family was attacked and we had to leave to another country for safety, for ourselves and our family.

Mariano Avila / WGVU

I’ve been following Lin Bardwell for nearly a year, trying to learn more about West Michigan’s urban Native population. She’s from the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians and is involved in the West Michigan Native community. So, with Thanksgiving on the mind, a day in which I was taught that pilgrims and Natives gave thanks together, I decided to call her. Turns out she was heading away from home.

“We just crossed into North Dakota and we’re heading into Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where Standing Rock is.”

Mariano Avila / WGVU

 Let’s start with some terms: In Michigan, the crime is “Ethnic Intimidation.” But yelling racial slurs at someone isn’t enough to be charged with a crime. Kent County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Chris Becker, explains what the “ethnic” part of the term means.

“The defendant has to specifically harass somebody because of their race, gender, color, national origin, or religion.”

Beyond the targeted group or individual, the type of aggression also matters.

Rosalynn Bliss
Hilary Farrell / WGVU

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss posted a statement Sunday night expressing concern for post-election hostilities towards vulnerable groups and calling to think of children.

“Even though there’s a ton of divisiveness right now in our country, we don’t need to allow that here in our own community. And we need to be an example to say, ‘that’s not OK.’

Mariano Avila / WGVU

Dozens of families filed into the downtown branch of the Grand Rapids Public Library on Sunday afternoon for an educational Day of the Dead celebration. 

Little skeletons and a Latin Ska are generally not what comes to mind when one thinks of public libraries. But for Day of the Dead, kids and grownups got their faces painted as skeletons,

"He’s not going to get me?

-He’s not going to get you.

-We’re not that kind of dead people."

And the Latin Ska band Cabildo rocked out for the families learning about Day of the Dead.

[Cabilido Music]

Mariano Avila / WGVU

An advisor to President Obama on matters of race and policing met with Grand Rapids community leaders Monday morning. 

Leighton Watson says he’s disappointed to hear that communities of color in Grand Rapids are struggling with the same issues as people in Charlotte, Ferguson and New York.

Mariano Avila / WGVU

On July 30, around 1:30 in the morning, Marcel Price was bar hopping in downtown Grand Rapids with some out-of-town friends when, he says, a bouncer at Tavern on the Square told him they couldn’t come in because of their skin color—he and his friends are Black. Price took out his cell phone and shot the following interaction.

Price: Wait one more time. You don’t want to let us in because of what? The black people inside.

Bouncer: Yeah, because we’ve got three of them in here, so whatever.

Price: Alright, yeah.

Bouncer: You're (BEEP) dumb.

GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal (center) joins city and public safety officials at a press conference on Friday, September 2.
Mariano Avila / WGVU

This week will see the return of nearly 17,000 students and a couple thousand staffers on the road.

That's according to Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal, who issued a call to citizens to stay focused on safety.

"We have a lot of construction going on. And so I want people to leave early, slow down," she says. "We can tell our kids not to run in the street, but you know what we’ve got little ones. They’re going to be excited to see their friends, they’re excited to see their teacher.

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