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

As 2017 wraps up, we asked four questions of four West Michigan leaders working with our most vulnerable communities.

[Mariano Avila] Hugo Claudin works at the Red Project helping folks living with HIV. He is also the curator of Mexicains Sans Frontieres—a gallery on South Division that brings jazz and Avant guard shows to Grand Rapids. He’s trim, middle-aged, wears black on most days and is a transplant from Mexico City. First I ask what changed in 2017.

Mariano Avila / WGVU

In the wake of community outcry over the Grand Rapids police officer who cuffed 11-year-old Honestie Hodges, Grand Rapids Area Pastors invited the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and GRPD leaders and advocates to dialog yesterday at Abney Academy Elementary. 

Grand Rapids has seen a sharp increase in illegal firearms seizures in recent years. Grand Rapids police have seized more than 265 illegal guns so far this year, up from 254 in 2016 and more than double the 127 in 2013. The department began its One More Gun Off the Street program in 2016 to publicly highlight the effort to recover illegally owned or used guns. 

Ace Marasigan

 Picture a walkway lined with star-shaped lanterns, made by hand out of bamboo and brightly-colored cellophane, that light the way to church for the nine days leading up to Christmas Eve. That’s a new event in Grand Rapids that the Filipino Cultural Group of Michigan hopes to make a city tradition.

“You know, in the Philippines the symbol of that parol is so meaningful, it symbolizes the star of Bethlehem, but it’s also a tradition because in 1908 this guy named Francisco (he’s the first guy who started this tradition), it was a way to light up a way to church.

Mariano Avila / WGVU

  A group of Hope College students identifying as LGBT and People of Color started a campaign to amplify 95 stories of discrimination and disrespect on campus. 

Joshua Kam is generally well regarded by faculty and peers, when I meet him on Hope’s campus, he exudes politeness as he tells me why he stepped out of the choir formation on Sunday to disrupt his third and final Vespers concert as means to promote of his 95 Stories campaign.

Mariano Avila / WGVU

 This Tuesday, the topic will be Health and Environment. But, in case you missed it, the one at the Kroc center last Tuesday, November 28 was about economic opportunity. The free dinner was chicken and beef tacos, rice and beans, but the real dish was opportunities and barriers for minority business owners. Here’s Jamiel Robinson from GRAAB who says the main barrier is relational.

“If you look at Steelcase, who’s one of their top suppliers or dealers? It’s Custard! And so that’s two families, so it comes down to relational, in addition to access to capital.”

Rapid Silver Line bus

Everything from how gentrification causes displacement, to how trees affect transportation is on the agenda for the city’s six-part community series. Tonight at six the city will put on a dinner that is free and open to the public, at the Kroc Center. The topic will be Commercial development and economic opportunities. But, to give you an idea of the issues, last week it was all about transportation and among the panelists was Josh Naramore, Mobile GR and Parking Manager for the city of Grand Rapids   .

Downtown Grand Rapids

Gentrification and displacement are words that make residents anxious when their neighborhoods are being bought out by folks with more money. Last night, at the Kroc Center, the city of Grand Rapids invited experts to meet with S. Division neighbors and talk about t these terms and how area specific plans come into the process. Inner-City Christian Federation President Ryan Ver Wys.

“Area Specific Plans are a way that we as a community name what’s important or what we would like to see happen in our community in the years to come.”

Mariano Avila / WGVU

Engaging Community. It may sound simple, but it’s the question as development in Grand Rapids continues to boom. Recently, community members who didn’t agree with Amplify GR’s community engagement tactics shut down a meeting. Now, we’ll get to what some community organizations are doing to influence this conversation. But let’s start with the city.

“Tonight we wanted to hear from people who attended—the residents of the neighborhood, business owners, property owners—to get their input on how they want to be engaged in this process.”

Mariano Avila / WGVU

It’s early in the morning and Martel Posey, the new executive director of Spokes Folks, is making arrangements to move an entire bike shop gifted to his organization from a donor in Bay City to Grand Rapids.

“Forty bikes, a bunch of tools, and a bunch of just boxes of parts that have been sitting there for a while now. And they thought it would be the perfect place to continue the story.”