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APACC celebrates anniversary, Asian Pacific American heritage at luau

Colorado+State+University+students+dance+to+Ulupalakua+at+the+Asian+Pacific+American+Cultural+Centers+40th+anniversary+luau+April+20.
Collegian | Lauren Mascardo
Colorado State University students dance to “Ulupalakua” at the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center’s 40th anniversary luau April 20.

On Saturday afternoon, dozens gathered as the past and present collided, as current students and alumni joined together to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Asian Pacific American Culture Center while looking toward a bright future.

On April 20, APACC and the CSU Pacific Club hosted the Hau’oli Lā Hānau APACC Lū’au, or the Happy Birthday APACC Lū’au, at the Lory Student Center.

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“Usually, in Hawaiian culture, (a luau is) put on to celebrate big milestones in people’s lives,” said Jaylyn Hew, APACC financial adviser. “It’s just an amazing opportunity for people to, like, come together and celebrate life with family.”

The first luau on campus since 2018, the event saw a large turnout, with many students and locals in attendance. They were provided an opportunity to learn about Pacific cultures, Pacific Club President and Chai to Understand Coordinator Tatiana Soon said. 

“Anything regarding the Pacific oceans is what is considered Pacific cultures (and) regions,” Soon said. “This can include but (is) not limited to Hawaiians, Tongans, Samoans, Maori from Aotearoa or New Zealand, Tahitians. We also expand our representation to native (Chamorros) from Guam.”

“We will continue to support the historically marginalized communities we serve on campus, such as mixed race, transracial adoptees, queer, trans, survivors and (those) with disabilities. Although we still have work to do, we matter. We will not be silenced.” –JoAnn Cornell, Asian Pacific American Cultural Center director

Attendants were served a wide variety of dishes, including kalua pork, huli-huli chicken, chicken long rice, veggie curry and teriyaki tofu. Beverages included water and passion orange guava juice, and there were desserts like haupia and butter mochi.

While guests began to eat, junior Emika Buschow and sophomore Lilianna Nono presented a slideshow covering APACC’s history. Their work was also presented in a visual representation map displayed in the lobby. 

The office was originally founded in 1984, according to APACC’s website, after a survey distributed across campus indicated that Asian Pacific American students wanted to learn more about their heritage and connect with community members. Then-graduate student Linda Ahuna-Hamill took up the charge, as Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes reflected in her speech at the luau. 

“(Ahuna-Hamill) wanted to build a place where Asian Pacific American students could come together,” Hughes said. “Learn more about their heritage, build community among themselves and also to provide education to the diversity and for the college community about their culture.”

The center’s impact on students’ lives was felt through several guest speakers throughout the night, including alumna Malinda Sloan, who served as the first president of the Asian American Students Association during her time at CSU.

“In the late ’70s (and) early ’80s, we were kind of grouped into a monolithic group,” Sloan said. “(But) we all know that Asians are a … diverse, culturally rich group of folks. So it’s not just a monolithic view, and I really appreciate the leadership at that time to help us develop into where we are and what we will be in the future.”

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Deborah Meyer, who attended CSU 2007-11 and served as APACC’s special project coordinator during her time on campus, shared similar thoughts. 

“It was only help and guidance from APACC of why I truly graduated,” Meyer said. “I had to pay my way through college at one point, working four jobs at one time. The only reason I survived most days was because of food at APACC programming and a quick nap in between classes on the sofas.”

Speeches and presentations throughout the night were intermingled with various dances performed by CSU students and athletes. This included the performance of “‘Ulupalakua,” which was written and composed by John Pi’ilani Watkins.

“This mele describes the beautiful scenery within Ulupalakua, located on the island of Maui,” junior Jannai Oganeku said. “Along with luscious greenery, this place is known for its rich paniolo culture — aka Hawaiian cowboys.”

At the end of the luau, a cake was cut, and APACC sang “Happy Birthday,” both in English and Hawaiian. Afterward, “Hawaii Aloha” was also performed. 

“This mele is often sung after big events and ceremonies as a way to close a gathering by having the community come together and sing,” Soon said. 

After 40 years, APACC’s mission remains strong. While the center faces continued challenges, their voice remains as loud as ever. 

“We will continue to support the historically marginalized communities we serve on campus, such as mixed race, transracial adoptees, queer, trans, survivors and (those) with disabilities,” said JoAnn Cornell, APACC director. “Although we still have work to do, we matter. We will not be silenced.”

Reach Katie Fisher at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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