Hawai’i Club Lū’au: SPU Seniors Reflect on Sharing Aloha with Campus
By Elishia Chun and Jacob Fong
If you’ve seen Disney’s Lilo and Sitch, 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 firsthand.
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, we 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 lū’au our freshman year, she reached out to family friends: retired police officers originally from Hawai’i, 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, lū’au didn’t have much funding initially, so their nonprofit organization, Northwest Makai ‘Ohana, helped make lū’au 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 lū’au.
Here’s our club – Jacob (far left), Elishia and Kaui in the front, (in blue and green).
Our sophomore year, we moved locations to the SPU gymnasium, Royal Brougham Pavilion.
By our junior year, both the size of Hawai’i club and the events that the club put on had grown considerably. We didn't 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 lū’au 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.
Junior year, we stayed in Royal Brougham, and lūʻau continued to grow.
There is a Hawaiian word, kuleana, which loosely translates to “responsibility.” This word really plays into our hearts as we cognitively process the 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 the hope 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.
Bringing your culture to SPU
We hope other cultural and multi-ethnic clubs will be encouraged by our experience planning lū’au 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 lū’au 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 lū’au tradition continues to display the aloha spirit to the SPU campus and inspire other students and clubs to share their culture as well.
Mahalo Nui Loa,
Elishia Chun and Jacob Fong