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

 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.”

Screenshot / WGVU

UPDATE: GRCRC issued a statement of thanks to Flamingo Lounge for apologizing and canceling the event. 

The Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission issued a press release encouraging respect and cultural sensitivity during costume events following an incident in which a West Side bar promoted a party themed Cowboys and Indians. For WGVU’s Mutually Inclusive Mariano Avila has the story.

“Nobody wants to get a press release calling them out for their behavior.”

Mariano Avila / WGVU

  LINC UP held a ceremony last night announcing the winners of its annual Community Spirit Awards which also kicked off its Empowered Communities Conference. For WGVU’s Mutually Inclusive, Mariano Avila has the story.

Jeremy DeRoo, executive director of LINC set the tone of the awards and conference saying that all the nominees and presenters whether they work on African American unemployment or children’s lead levels in zip code 49507 have one thing in common.

Mariano Avila / WGVU

Grand Rapids Nonprofit LINC-UP is hosting the second-annual Empowering Communities Conference at DeVos place tonight and tomorrow. For WGVU’s Mutually Inclusive, Mariano Avila has more.

“It really is a chance for us to bring together a lot of people who are doing great work in Grand Rapids and around the country and have a chance to listen to what these things are and get inspired, get renewed, get some new ideas, and improve the quality of work that we all are doing.”

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.