Hui ’O Hawai’i Luau

Sophia Kobernusz-Gibbs, Staff Writer

The campus Luau is back this spring, and in person. Yes, you read that right! Last year, due to COVID-19, the Hui ’O Hawai’i club’s Luau was canceled and moved to an online format. This year, the Hawai’i Club invites students and faculty to join in this socially distanced event on April 24th in the Marcus Pavilion. 

The Luau is a legacy event for the Hawai’i Club involving music, dance and food. It is a celebration that has been a part of the club’s tradition since its inception. This year’s event will be limited to 200 people and the food will be to-go only.

Jocelyn Bonilla, President of the Hui ‘O Hawai’i Club, talks about how entire families from Hawai’i would come to Saint Martin’s for past Lūʻau’s, to watch them perform and be a part of the festivities, but cannot attend this year due to COVID-19. Bonilla is excited to see how Luau 2021 will play out. The club hopes to provide a safe and memorable experience for everyone who attends.

Preparation for the Luau has already begun. There have been challenges and setbacks, but Bonilla is proud to see club members work together, overcome obstacles, and be resilient. “Their willingness to dedicate their time to learn new dances, prepare decorations, and event logistics motivates me as a leader to remain optimistic and hopeful,” Bonilla said. 

At the Luau, you can expect new dances taught by entertainment chair Wehi Kawasaki, aided by Jenna Ramirez and Shay Bonilla. This year, the club is catering food from L&L  Hawaiian Barbecue in Tumwater. 

Unrelated to this event, Bon Appétit, Saint Martin’s integrated catering company, had planned an earlier event at the campus café called “Let’s Luau” featuring Hawaiian-inspired foods and drinks. The Hawai’i club shared its concerns about the cultural appropriation of calling it a Luau event, and Bon Appétit agreed to cancel the event. Bonilla said the club appreciates Bon Appétit “for recognizing our concerns and taking steps to remedy the situation. We are grateful for their cooperation and willingness to hear input from our members.”

Beyond this year’s Luau, Bonilla talked about what the club has done for her, and what she hopes to do for the club. “My freshman year, [members] Jase and Mariel were on the board and they made SMU feel like a second home for me. Since serving on the board, my goal has been to provide the same experience for our members.” 

The Hui ‘O Hawai’i club plans a variety of events throughout the year, including Midterm Cram Jam and Volunteer Opportunities at Our Common Home Farm. “Last semester we successfully pulled off a virtual Ho’olaule’a, which essentially is a small-scale version of what we plan for during Lūʻau,” Bonilla said. “This semester we are looking forward to doing the same with Luau 2021.”

Roughly 80 percent of the club members are from Hawai’i, Bonilla told The Belltower. “You do not have to be from Hawai’i to be a part of this club,” she said. “We welcome anyone interested in learning about the culture to join! An important note to make here is that not everyone from Hawai’i is Hawaiian. Many people assume that everyone from Hawai’i is Hawaiian but that is not the case at all. To be Hawaiian means to have Native Hawaiian blood.” 

If you want to learn more about the club and its activities, follow it on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @smuhuiohawaii. 

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