Sacred Heart Preparatory (SHP) junior Epeli Pahulu joins the dozen other student members of the Pacific Islander Affinity Group on the outdoor Conway Court stage to begin a performance of Maulu'ulu, a traditional Tongan dance.
Their arms gracefully arc and hands sweep the reed mats they are seated upon, making a rhythmic thrum to complement the beat of a drum. It’s one of a half-dozen dance performances at the first-ever Pacific Islander Luau event on the Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton campus.
“It was really important to us to make sure we could bring our culture to our school and share it with everyone,” said Pahulu, gesturing to the crowd of several hundred gathered on the courtyard to celebrate. Long tables featured a feast prepared by the affinity group’s parents and relatives. A delicacy formed the focal point: two roast pigs that the “fathers and uncles” spent all day cooking in the Keith Holderman Grove.
“I think having our family here today performing and supporting us speaks to our culture and the great importance of community, and of always involving our family members,” said Pahulu.
The school-wide event happened one day after the SHP Asian-American Festival, which was organized by the Asian-American Affinity Group consisting of over 20 student members. The group was formed two years ago, while the Pacific Islander group was formed last fall.
Yesterday’s festival also featured traditional fare for students, faculty, and staff during an extended lunch period, a Chinese calligraphy station, and an origami-making station. In conjunction with the newly-formed SHP Speaker’s Bureau, the group hosted a guest speaker: journalist Claudine Wong, a KTVU news anchor.
In an interview led by Makena Tom (SHP ’24) and Raina Singh (SHP ‘24), Wong answered questions about her life’s journey as an Asian-American growing up in the Bay Area, who then spent time in the Midwest before returning home. She shared what it was like being a minority as she built a journalism career, her experiences grappling with the more recent rise in anti-Asian sentiment seen nationwide, and how she combats that through her storytelling.
“Especially during AAPI Month, I think it’s great that we were able to have the Asian-American Festival, but also remember Pacific Islanders,” said Pahulu. “We were able to have both, but also separate, which is important. When you put two together, you kind of blur them and don’t really get to see the significance of each one as an individual. Having our own events was really vital because we were able to bring our own uniqueness and individuality of our cultures.”