By Alyssa Shapiro
Jared Egusa is an Asian American artist and actor based in Los Angeles. Inspired by Ukiyo-e, a genre of Japanese art which translates to "pictures of the floating world," Egusa embeds his own identity into his artwork. This year, he collaborated with Youth To The People to commemorate Pride.
Who are you and what do you stand for?
My name is Jared and I am an artist. What I stand for is a very loaded question. Do I have to pick just one? Donʼt we all stand for a multitude of things? I believe in justice and equality, that we all should be treated fairly and judged on the merit of our character and actions, not on the color of our skin or whom we choose to sleep with. I believe that a CEO holds no inherent superiority over the struggling barista working to support their children. I stand for a common empathy that links us all together in the great cosmos of random (or not random) chaos and interconnectedness. I stand for those who cannot speak out against injustice, because if I have some privilege that they donʼt, I feel it is my responsibility to use my voice when theirs cannot be heard.
What are your pronouns?
Why do you feel itʼs important to make your voice heard?
I think we instinctively respond to authenticity when we see it. Being authentic has always been something thatʼs very important to me, even if it means exposing my flaws and qualities that Iʼm ashamed of. In doing so, I have felt firsthand how it makes people feel less alone. In truth we are all flawed. Itʼs what unites us all: the ability to contain the best and the worst qualities within ourselves, the ability to choose.
On a good day, I will gladly go out of my way to make someone a little more happy and on bad days, I will probably withdraw and think solely about my own wellbeing. Both can coexist, and they do, toiling away at all times. You begin to realize that we are all these beautiful and messy contradictions trying to do what is best simultaneously for ourselves and the world at large.
What is your outlet?
I feel really grateful that drawing has been an outlet for me to express what I am feeling inside. Itʼs a way for my mindʼs valve to open and let a stream of consciousness pour out in symbols and codes. Often I might not know what a drawing represents until itʼs finished. But always, the process is therapeutic and wholly satisfying in the way that authentically expressing your emotions can be.
Is there a moment in your memory when your perspective or idea of what Pride is changed or evolved? What happened then?
For me, itʼs been more of a gradual progression. As I’ve gotten older, I have found a profound acceptance in who I am and what I like. In part this has to do with getting older and feeling more comfortable in my own skin, but itʼs also been hugely aided by seeing more three-dimensional portrayals of LGBTQ characters in the media. The validation someone feels when they see themselves reflected in a positive, truthful, and thoughtful light can go a long way.
This is who I am. How could I wish to be any other way? We are all unique and alike. These questions, these insecurities, these are things that we have all experienced. Iʼm proud of who I am and I donʼt want anyone to feel the way I felt growing up.
If you could get the world to change its collective mind about one issue, or adopt one way of being, what would it be and why?
In some ways, our attention is our most valuable asset. Thereʼs a lot of power in deciding what to care about, because what we care enough about to give our attention to is ultimately what is getting generated, being created, and growing.
There is an order to this process: care, knowledge, and action. We must care enough to attain the knowledge, and then we must act on it. Thatʼs the order. All three of these elements must be in place, unifying thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Fifteen years ago, I gave up eating meat. I had always been a sensitive kid and animals felt like kindred spirits. It wasnʼt my right to take away their right to live. As I learned about the incredibly inhumane treatment of animals in the factory farm industry, I simply cared too much to go on eating meat. So I stopped. Every day I would wake up and make the conscious decision to care enough about the well-being of animals to avoid looking at meat items on the menu as options. I learned to adapt.
It is an impossibility for us in the aggregate to change the direction of energy, to change the direction of consciousness, and to get what we say we want if we do not care enough to act. Action is the thing that is generating our reality and that gets generated by what we care about.
What I wish is that we as a community, all of us, our tribe of Earthlings, would act on what we care about just a little bit more. We see the destruction of forests, the pollution of oceans, the mistreatment of animals, injustices put upon one another, and we care, we do. We may even care enough to learn more about the issue. But many of us, myself included, stop at that point before action gets taken. To take action is hard. It takes courage and strength. It seems futile at times. But the point is, if we donʼt act on what we know is right, on what we care about, things will never change in the direction we want them to. Thatʼs what I wish Earthlings would adopt a little more; the strength to act. Call out that guy thatʼs littering, stop your schoolmate from bullying, cut back on eating meat, switch to a glass straw, recycle when you can, drive a little bit less, demand for companies to have higher standards for waste disposal, have a little more compassion for the other living things on this planet. We can all make these small steps that—in the aggregate—might make a real difference. And a real difference is what we all want and what this earth needs.
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