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

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A violent incident between a Fannie's Corner store clerk and a customer on Grand Rapids’s southeast side has resulted in the city filing charges against the employee.

The employee, Mittermann Singh, allegedly struck customer Sharon Ray over the head with a lead pipe.

But the city’s recent action follows community voices calling for boycott and closure that have been mounting pressure for some time.

"Well we’re saying, 'enough is enough'."

That's Michael Scruggs, chairman of the Kent County Black Caucus.

For the past 14 years, west Michiganders from several faith traditions have come together to celebrate Thanksgiving. 

Earlier this week, Trinity United Methodist Church hosted more than 450 guests - one of the largest groups the event has ever gathered.

"It’s been hosted at Jewish temples (and) churches - the planning committee consists of representatives from all of the religious traditions in Grand Rapids." 

That’s Katie Gordon from the Kaufman Interfaith Institute.

Mariano Avila / WGVU

People streamed in and out of the Tanglefoot building on Grand Rapid’s West Side on Friday and Sunday for the 24th annual artist and studio open house.    

It’s like Soho in the 90s—a gritty, brick exterior next to a scrap-metal yard. Creaky wooden staircases lead up from a warehouse to several thousand square feet of artist studios.

“The building has been here for more than 100 years. I was going to say originally, but they are still making the fly strips, that’s why it’s called Tanglefoot.”

Mariano Avila / WGVU

Last week’s tragedy in Paris has dominated news, politics, and social media. But little is being said about the twin ISIS bombing in Beirut, Lebanon and Baghdad, Iraq the day before. The silence is more personal to some than to others.

Albert Khussan is a middle-aged man with a drowsy smile and gray stubble who loves to talk about Beirut, Lebanon, the hometown he left for West Michigan nearly 25 years ago.

Mariano Avila (shot of Shared Hope Intl. website) / WGVU

Last year, Michigan failed Shared Hope International’s human rights report card. After looking at 41 different aspects of the law, Shared Hope International gave Michigan a B this year for improving laws protecting children and minors from sex trafficking.

“Previously the law didn’t allow buyers to be charged with the crime of human trafficking. This year because of laws that were strengthened the human trafficking law can apply to buyers.”

Mariano Avila / WGVU

Earlier this week, the Grand Rapids City Commission discussed The High Cost of Inequality, a study by the West Michigan Leadership Collaborative. 

Deputy City Commissioner, Eric DeLong, acknowledged that disparities are real and are part of Grand Rapids. But he invited commissioners to envision what he called a “future-state” in which disparities are addressed. What followed circled largely around one topic: employment. Here’s Third Ward Commissioner Senita Lenear.

Downtown Grand Rapids
Wikimedia | Grguy2011

Is Grand Rapids the next Ferguson?

That's the question that packed hundreds of people into Wealthy Theatre last week to listen to and engage with the ACLU-assembled panel discussing some deeply-rooted issues.

Mark Fancher is the racial justice attorney for the ACLU.

He moderated the 'Avoiding the Next Ferguson' panel in Grand Rapids before a packed house and set the tone by framing the creation of America's police departments in a provocative historic context.

Here's a story with a happy ending.

A West Michigan couple that retired in the Mexican Pacific Coast is alive and well following Friday's Hurricane Patricia.

Mary and Marvin Dolinka lived in Ada until three years ago, when they decided to retire in a tiny hotel they bought in Sayulita - a town just 30 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 

"It's known for its beautiful beaches, its friendly people, everything is in walking distance." 

But the news over the weekend warned that Patricia, a hurricane with 200 mph winds, would be catastrophic. 

Mariano Avila / WGVU

One in 68 children born in the United States today is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This week, the Autism Society of Michigan organized a conference in Grand Rapids to share and compare resources.

Kira Rockman has a 14-year-old child on the Autism spectrum. She attended the Autism Society of Michigan's conference on Monday because, she says, of the practical examples and the activities she can get there.  

"It's given me a lot of really great ideas about things that I can incorporate, just going to church, going to school and just every day ideas."