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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Tami VandenBerg: Q&A on 2017/18 in Grand Rapids

As 2017 wraps up, WGVU’s Mariano Avila asked four questions of four West Michigan leaders working with our most vulnerable communities. As part of WGVU’s Mutually Inclusive, here is his interview with Tami VandenBerg.

[Mariano Avila] Tami Vandenberg owns The Pyramid Scheme and the Meanwhile, two popular Grand Rapids bars. Somehow, she also finds time to direct Well House, a housing-first nonprofit addressing homelessness. At a downtown coffee shop I ask what changed for her in 2017.

[TV] “I saw people get activated that had not been activated. I saw people show up that have not shown up. And I have seen people raise their voice in very meaningful ways, at meetings, where it matters and not just a comment on social media.”

[MA] What do you think you’re grateful for this year?

[TV] “I’m extremely grateful to everyone who got out there and spoke up, and raised their voice. And who want to see solutions to some problems that have gotten pretty bad right?”

[MA] What change do you expect to see in 2018?

[TV] “Implementation of actual solutions. I’m thinking about policing, I’m thinking about housing, I’m thinking about drug policy reform.”

[MA] If you had a general message for folks as they head into 2018, what would it be?

[TV] “Do not despair. We need to be there for each other. We’re looking at one of the most unequal societies we may have seen for many, many years. And we’re looking at a region that has severe inequities. And we need to solve that, and we can solve that. And we can’t wait on the feds and we can’t wait on the state. And we need to look local. And we need to organize local and focus local.   

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.
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