Name: Mariano I. Avila

Age: I’m XXXVII, born in MCMLXXVIII–that’s dead language for “getting old.”

Location: On the left (as usual) of the white sofa in my living room, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Occupation: Dad, Husband, Writer, Activist, Language Teacher

Where did you come from? Mom. We were in Mexico City that day.

A Fear: The bear that licked me some years back–long story.

A Goal: Nonviolence. More of it.

A Memory: The first summer I took a group of students to the Holy Land, an Israeli soldier wouldn’t let me into Bethlehem and had me stand in the noon sun (blazing at 100 ºF) because he was convinced I was Jewish–the middle “I” stands for Israel. It also didn’t help that one of the Dutch dudes in the group was Aaron Zachariah. I demanded to speak with the checkpoint commander when the soldier implied that he’d check us for circumcision if we didn’t convince him. After an hour they let us go without demanding more than paperwork.

A Mistake: This year, my friend and brother, Ben Bufford, woke me up on my birthday. It was 8 a.m., I had decided to sleep in. He sang his best rendition of Happy Birthday Mr. President complete with his Marilyn Monroe impression. I’m pretty sure he was in his cubicle at work. We talked for almost an hour. He said some very affirming things, assured me that God had plans for me, and suggested that we meet up very soon, but I was too busy for the next few days. A week later, at 1 a.m., I rushed to the hospital because he’d fainted, but when I got there he had passed away–he was 36. The last time I talked to him wasn’t in person. I will always regret that.

A Hero: Right now, Foucault.

A Fault: Whichever one shows up that day. Seriously, I think I’ve hosted most by now.

A Talent: I used to do a killer Christopher Walken impression, then my accent started reverting to Philly and now when I try it, folks say I sound drunk or tired. I don’t do it anymore.

A Prized Possession: The rollerball Meisterstük pen that my wife, Kate, gave me when I got accepted to Warren Wilson’s MFA, but a close second is the Olivetti Valentine (typewriter) that my friend, Brent, found for me in Portland.

A Need: Wisdom to raise my daughter to fight the patriarchy, practice nonviolence, love herself, love others, love God, and hopefully me too.

I want More: Time to read and write

I want Less: Stuff in general or at least the need for it.

What would you change about the world? Violence, I’d do away with all forms of it–verbal, physical, systemic, economic, cultural. But, I’d settle for a general ban on war and having all international conflicts solved either through extreme Jenga matches or Angry Birds (the latter because my six-year-old nephew, Luisito, would soon become supreme commander of the known universe) .

What do you love about yourself? The space I tend to occupy in relationships I value. I can’t think of a better way to say it. It’s not so much who I am on my own, or achievements, or habits. Rather, in my relationships with others, I tend to be given a space in their set scheme of social roles, needs, or wants.



Your Name: Sarah Sunshine Scott

Age: 39

Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Occupation: Arts Coordinator, Heartside Gallery and Studio. Also, Mother.

Where did you come from? A convict and a farm girl, born at home in Grand Rapids in 1975

A Fear: Watching the neighborhoods I live and work in turn to shit from gentrification

A Goal: To work part time at a place I love, have time to nurse my baby and make art with my ten year old, to garden and to figure out how to love.

A Memory: Nearly failing out of high school and the first year of college and then falling in love with printmaking and having one serious BFA show.

A Mistake: Getting married. This does not reflect on my ex husband or me having a child with him at all. I mean the act of getting married. My gut told me otherwise and I didn’t listen. I’m not religious and I didn’t need a piece of paper to bond me to another person, it was never a childhood dream of mine. I’m learning to listen to my gut more now.

A Hero: Grace Lee Boggs, Lynnee Denise, Jane Van Dommelen.

A Fault: I worry so much.

A Talent: I’m a damn good mama.

A Prized Possession: My printmaking press.

A Need: More time to myself and to learn to throw my phone in the garbage.

I want More: Quiet, connections.

I want Less: Scheduling

What would you change about the world? More sharing of and listening to each other’s stories, more systemic looks at poverty and the ridiculous rate of mass incarceration, more digging in and less head nodding.

What do you love about yourself? I don’t give up, ever.