Hawai’i club lūʻau: SPU seniors reflect on sharing aloha with campus
If you’ve seen Disney’s Lilo and Stitch, you’ve probably heard the saying, ‘Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind.
This is more than just a saying: it’s part of the aloha spirit. We were both born and raised in Hawai‘i, and we are fortunate enough to have experienced the spirit of aloha first hand.
Aloha is so much more than just a greeting. Its meaning goes beyond simple words like care and respect, “the spirit of aloha” is a way of life. Aloha is to carry the responsibility of taking care of others – so they can succeed – and to treat them as if they are a part of your family.
When we moved to Seattle four years ago, we both joined SPU’s ‘Ohana ‘O Hawai‘i club. As a club, wanted to show SPU the spirit of aloha by hosting a lūʻau. Our first year, a modest 200 people attended. This past year, we packed out SPU’s Royal Brougham Pavilion with 600 people.
When former Hawai‘i club president Kaui Brito began planning SPU’s first annual lūʻau our freshman year, she reached out to family friends: retired police officers originally from Hawai‘i and now living in Washington. Even though they weren’t SPU alumni and had no children going to SPU, they were still willing to help. As a new event, lūʻau initially didn’t have much funding, so their nonprofit organization, Northwest Makai ‘Ohana, helped make lūʻau come to life.
With their help, we handmade all the food the first two years: lomi lomi salmon, haupia, chicken long rice, kalua pork, and macaroni salad – all food that would be present at a traditional lūʻau.
By our junior year, both the size of Hawai‘i club and the events that the club put on had grown considerably. We did not have space on campus to cook a meal for 500 people, or the equipment to make the food, but thankfully, Kaua‘i Family Restaurant in Georgetown has catered our lūʻau for the past two years. One thing that has exemplified the aloha spirit these last four years is the generosity of people in the community who wanted to help us just because we are from Hawai‘i.
There is a Hawaiian word, kuleana, which loosely translates to “responsibility.” This word really plays into our hearts as we cognitively process reasons why many club members – as the two of us can attest – feel the responsibility to volunteer and spend hundreds of combined hours planning to make this event happen. We felt kuleana to share our culture with others, while also upholding it in a dignifying way with honor and respect.
We also feel kuleana to give others the opportunity to engage in our culture, in hopes that they will gain a greater understanding and appreciation for Hawaiian culture. Club leaders and members put in a lot of time into ensuring that our hula, singing, and chanting are reflective of the Hawaiian stories being told, and that the food and decorations are authentic.
Sharing the spirit of aloha
Seeing how much lūʻau has grown in the past four years has been very rewarding. Through all the sleepless nights, countless hours at rehearsal, and cooking, we can say that we have helped build a family – one that will stay together through thick and thin.
When you come to Hawai‘i club and lūʻau, you are not just a member or an attendee. You are a part of our large family. We are proud to leave this campus knowing that we have helped make a difference at SPU.
Seattle Pacific seeks to “engage the culture.” By helping to establish lūʻau as an annual cultural event for the SPU community, we are pleased to help fulfill SPU’s mission and provide opportunity for the community to experience diversity in culture.
Bringing your culture to SPU
We hope other cultural and multi-ethnic clubs will be encouraged by our experience planning lūʻau and plan their own cultural events. It’s our hope that other clubs on campus will not be hindered by barriers such as limited funding. We believe that lūʻau has helped to prove that there is an audience at SPU that is excited to learn about and engage in different cultures; it’s just a matter of making it available to them.
To all the club leaders out there, times may get hard and numbers may seem small, but we all started off there. Progress may be small, too, but it is necessary to reach your goal. We’ve experienced and seen it.
SPU, Thank you for allowing us to share our culture with you. We hope that this lūʻau tradition continues to display the aloha spirit to the SPU campus and inspire other students and clubs to share their culture.
Mahalo Nui Loa,
Elishia Chun and Jacob Fong