Watercolors: Estria Miyashiro paints environmental message

Estria Miyashiro in front of his mural at the East Bay Asian Youth Center in Oakland. Photo by Alec Yoshio MacDonald

Oakland, the city where I live, pulses with civic and cultural energy, but this vibrancy can feel muted by the specter of blight. A mood of desolation and general shabbiness weighs heavy along too many of our pothole-pocked streets, lined with crumbling buildings and weed-strewn vacant lots. This place is fraying, and not just around the edges, but at its very core.

One way that folks around here have rallied against the tide of encroaching decay is by painting murals. This art form not only brightens urban landscapes; it has the power to convey important, uplifting messages as well.

In an exciting example of this kind of transformative action, I recently learned that Estria Miyashiro, a muralist and graffiti writer I interviewed a couple years ago, has launched a project called Water Writes. Through his foundation and partnerships with various other organizations, he plans to complete ten murals dedicated to the protection and conservation of water. This Saturday, he and his crew will be working on one of these over at 21st and Broadway, bringing a little reinvigoration to Downtown Oakland. And next Saturday, the first Water Writes mural will be unveiled in an event held from 1 to 4 p.m. at the KIPP Academy at 2810 Whittier Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Seems like a fitting lead-in to World Water Day on Tuesday, March 22. Coincidentally, this year’s theme, “Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge,” dovetails nicely with the spirit of Water Writes. There will be World Water Day events in Oakland, San Francisco and Tokyo, to name just a few locations.

And here’s one more March water date for your calendar: The 28th is the deadline to apply for the Diversity for Sustainability Internship Program, a new initiative of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute, a recognized non-profit leader in the realm of water policy. Looks like a great opportunity for any young Nikkei looking to gain experience in the field of environmental sustainability and social justice. The same can also be said of Water Writes, so if that project sounds intriguing, hit up Estria, as I’m sure he’d appreciate the help.

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