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.

In this special episode, we wish farewell to George Walker III, host of WGVU's Cultural Ingredients who is moving across the country to Napa Valley, California and becoming the head of operations and brand manager at Wade Cellars. Mariano Avila, producer of WGVU's Shaping Narratives interviews George about his move to West Michigan, his work in cultural education, going through Shaping Narratives to create his own show, Cultural Ingredients, and what awaits him in Napa Valley.

Shaping Narratives is created by WGVU in partnership with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and WGVU's NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor at to support WGVU NPR's local programs, including Shaping Narratives.

Today marks the 51stanniversary of the Loving vs Virginia case which legalized interracial marriage. Ebony Road Players, the Grand Rapids-based black theater company is holding a week-long celebration. For WGVU’s Mutually Inclusive, Mariano Avila went to last night’s event. 

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber officially endorsed Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley who is seeking the republican nomination for Governor.  Rick Baker, President & CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce said of their endorsement that they believe he is qualified to maintain Michigan’s come-back trajectory—in reference to the economic recovery following the recession.

It all starts outdoors at 5:30 this evening--That's when the Lunar New Year’s Celebration at Gillette Bridge along with the dragon parade will take place.

"There’s going to be 4,000 fire crackers that are going to light up the whole bridge," organizer Ace Marasigan said.

Marasigan has worked with the Chinese Association of West Michigan, the host as well as a series of sponsors and hosts for the bridge celebration and two more spots.

“You know lion dance performance off the bridge and then we’re going to head off to Old National Bank," Marasigan said.

Last week, Grand Rapids City Commissioners voted to restart the search for a new City Manager, the most powerful non-elected official in the city. To better understand their decision, WGVU is interviewing commissioners individually. We started with 1st Ward Commissioner Kurt Reppart. 

[KR] I'll just say it, I came prepared to cast my vote today for Carol Mitten. And I'll share what is important to me in this process. I'm looking for a candidate who has the ability to think deeply, seek iformatio from new sources, and integrate that with the staff, commission and community. 

Mariano Avila / WGVU

The Grand Rapids City Commission voted to restart the search process for a new city manager, the most powerful, non-elected position in city government. 

[Jon O’Connor]: I would move that we reinitiate the search process for the city manager and that we re-post the job within 30 days from today to further diversify and expand the pool of candidates.

Second-Ward Commissioner Joe Jones seconded the motion, and after commissioners echoed community concerns about the process being rushed and hints about disagreement within the commission, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss called a vote.

Larry Nassar, the sports doctor who was convicted for molesting 190 girls and women earlier this month has been making headlines nationally. Katie Strang is the managing editor of The Athletic, a sports news publication in Michigan. Her coverage of the Nassar’s trial stood out in that it centered the stories of the women who spoke out and stood up to the doctor who abused so many. WGVU’s Mariano Avila talked to Katie Strang about her coverage.  A warning, accounts of abuse described here may be disturbing. 


“When you read that there were 190 women sexually abused, that’s a number. It is something entirely different to see a young girl with bangs and braces, and someone that fiddles with their necklace and has tears rolling down her cheeks, and is shaking reading her letter.”

Katie Strang is the managing editor at the sports news site “The” She tells me that when Larry Nassar’s trial began, she dropped everything to tell the story from the survivor’s point of view, starting with Rachael DenHollander, the first woman to come forward.

Zach Linewski / WGVU

As part of GVSU’s MLK Day celebration, twitter maven and racial inclusion advocate April Reign came to west Michigan. 

April Reign is best known for her hashtags #OscarSoWhite and #NoConfederate—which trended globally and yielded real Hollywood results. We sit down for an interview and she offers some tips, some insights, and even issues a calling. First, I ask why she chooses Twitter over other platforms.

Photo of Judge with a gavel
Wikimedia Commons

“You are the lowest form of human life that I have been able to observe and see. You are a monster, and quite frankly, you are evil. What you did was sickening and disgusting. You should never be allowed out of prison.”

Judge Mark Trusock of the 17th District Court issued these harsh words to 25-year-old Elis Nelson Ortiz-Nieves of Gaines Township as he handed him a life sentence for the murder of 4-year-old Giovanni Mejias. 

Medical marijuana shop in Denver.
O'dea via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 3.0 /

Marijuana in Michigan is poised to be a big story for 2018. But what its legalization means to different communities is a complex question. 

Let’s start with the legal story. The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act passed back in 2008. But who could sell, grow, or transport, it was not clearly outlined. Bob Hendricks is a legal expert with Wrigley, Hoffman and Hendricks, a firm with an established medical marijuana business practice. Hendricks says after the act passed, dispensaries started popping up everywhere.

  As 2017 wraps up, WGVU’s Mariano Avila asked four questions of four West Michigan leaders working with our most vulnerable communities. Here is his interview with Cle Jackson.

[Mariano Avila] Cle Jackson is the president of the NAACP in Grand Rapids. He is generally out in the community, especially when serious issues between police and black community members arise. I sit at his Hall-Street office in a more casual if pretty busy morning and ask him what changed in 2017.

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.

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.