The Pacific Unity Association and the Office for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs have organized multiple events this month to shine a spotlight on Pacific Islanders and celebrate Polynesian culture and customs.
Festivities kicked off with a dance on Saturday, April 1. Local disc jockey DJ Specialist provided the music as attendees were encouraged to wear their favorite college gear.
The Pacific Island Awareness Celebration was held Monday, April 3. Margarita Satini and Logan Gillette were invited to discuss Polynesian culture as well as important topics and concerns within the Pacific Islander community.
Adjusting to a new environment
Satini talked about her experiences from when she moved to Utah, specifically the cultural challenges she faced and how she overcame them.
When she first moved to Utah, Satini said she had trouble gaining acceptance from others. At school, her classmates would call her names and not share anything with her, and some children also tried to pick fights with her because of her skin color.
As an adult, Satini said her family was subjected to racial profiling. Her family was pulled from their home on three occasions, and police also ran multiple background checks on her and her children.
Satini shared her story to highlight the potential struggles that can occur as a result of discrimination, and why community members need to become more involved to help create change.
“If you want change, you have to demand it,” she said.
Satini also talked about the Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Coalition, where she serves as chairwoman. The group works with the Pacific Islander community to get them engaged in the democratic process.
History of the Haka
Logan Gillette, the director of graduate admissions and recruitment at Brigham Young University, spoke about the culture of Pacific Islanders, including the tradition and history of the Haka dance.
The Haka started as a war dance in New Zealand by the Maori people and includes rhythmic foot stamping, body slapping and a loud, fierce chant. Tribesmen would often perform the dance as a display of pride on the battlefield.
Both men and women can perform Hakas, and each group will use different facial expressions as they dance. When performed in unison, the Haka is one of the highest honors that can be given; a Haka that is out of sync presents a bad omen.
Hakas have gained popularity in recent times and are commonly seen at weddings, funerals and sporting events.
Polynesian cuisine and culture
The latest event was the Taste of Polynesia luau held on Friday, April 14 at the Alder Amphitheater outside the Student Center. The annual luau gave students another opportunity to learn more about the local Pacific Islander community and capped a celebration of Polynesian culture at SLCC.
Guests were treated to a variety of cultural performances and authentic cuisine throughout the evening. A few hundred people attended the luau, as many students brought their friends and family.
PUA club members entertained the audience with a variety of dance routines on the amphitheater stage. Students who brought their OneCard received a free plate of food, while other attendees paid $5 per plate.
Contact ODMA director Shellie Jo Enscoe or Pacific Islander advisor Tevita Hola to learn more about PUA and other opportunities for Polynesian students.