UH Hilo’s #StopAsianHate Celebration recognizes history of racism, celebrates culture and heritage

Held during Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the the two-day event recognized the history of racism and hate directed at Asians while also celebrating Asian cultures and heritage.

Two students in Japanese attire in red and black.
UH Hilo students Kylan Constantino (left) and Brooklyn Geiger at the #StopAsianHate Celebration May 3, 2024, held at the Campus Center Plaza. (Photo: Emily Thornton/UH Hilo Stories)

By Emily Thornton.

A #StopAsianHate Celebration was held at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo on Friday, May 3, and Monday, May 6. UH Hilo College of Arts and Sciences and Department of English put together the events held at the Campus Center Plaza to celebrate Asian and Asian American Culture.

The Japanese Students Association and the Center for Global Education and Exchange hosted display tables. There were musical performances, Japanese Taiko drumming, workshops, and Japanese snack tasting for all who attended.

Lead organizer of the celebration was Seri Luangphinith, professor of English, whose research includes uncovering the history of Korean immigrants to Hawaiʻi Island.

Seri Luangphinith pictured.
Seri Luangphinith

“The events on campus are to celebrate Asian culture and heritage,” says Luangphinith. “But also to recognize that there has been hatred and racism leveled against Asians within recent years. One of the things that we are going to display at Campus Center is pictures of vandalism of Asian graves around the island and then we are also going to have newspaper clippings that say some pretty nasty things about different Asian groups.”

  • Learn more about Prof. Luangphinith’s research in this story about a related art exhibition co-sponsored by UH Hilo, “One Heart: Korean Art and History Across the Pacific,” currently underway at Wailoa Art Center.

In addition to the UH Hilo College of Arts and Sciences and the English department, the #StopAsianHate Celebration was supported by the UH Mānoa Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity, along with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Hawaiʻi Council for the Humanities.

Mizin Shin holds up sign Use Your Voice #Stop Asian Hate.
Mizin Shin (Courtesy photo)

Among the many key moments at the two-day event were printmaking workshops on both days with internationally known printmaker Mizin Shin, an assistant professor of art and history at the University of Rochester, New York. Shin, an activist for the campaign “Use Your Voice #StopAsianHate,” led a workshop on stencil and frottage (a method of creating design impressions by placing a piece of paper on top of an object and then rubbing over it, as with a pencil or charcoal) and encouraged participants to learn various printmaking techniques.

  • Frottage is the technique Prof. Luangphinith used to do gravestone rubbings in cemeteries throughout Hawaiʻi Island to discover long-lost histories of Koreans on the island. Learn more about Prof. Luangphinith’s use of this technique in her research and about her book, The Paths We Cross: The Lives and Legacies of Koreans on the Big Island (Ka Noio ʻAʻe Ale, UH Hilo Independent Press, 2018).

There also was a concert at the #StopAsianHate Celebration on May 6 by noted Korean American singer Orion Song. Song’s grandfather, Chun Yik Sur, was a Korean independence activist on Hawaiʻi Island who worked in Hilo and Hakalau. UH Hilo’s own Norman Arancon, a professor of horticulture known for his vocal talent, also performed.

Norman standing on stage, gesturing to audience, singing into mic. Colorful flags and lanterns in the background.
UH Hilo’s own Norman Arancon, a professor of horticulture known for his vocal talents, performs at the #StopAsianHate Celebration, May 6, 2024, at the Campus Center Plaza. (Photo: Emily Thornton/UH Hilo Stories)

There was Japanese Taiko drumming on both days of the event.

Also at both days of the event there were items on display from newspaper clippings to photos and posters. For example, in addition to the images of Asian grave vandalism, there were samples of old newspapers from Hawaiʻi Island that talk about “wiley Orientals.” The Japanese Students Association hosted images and discussions of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

UH Hilo mental health counselor Madalyn Freedman delivered remarks at Friday’s event, reaching out to students to let them know that counseling services are available to those that may have experienced any hateful activity or words directed at them and need some support about it.

The main purpose of the two-day event was to recognize the history of racism and hate directed at Asians while also celebrating Asian cultures and heritage.

“We have a lot of students of Asian ancestry, and I think [the event] is not only helping students feel appreciated, recognizing their heritages, but also to recognize that there have been instances where Asians haven’t always felt welcome,” says Professor Luangphinith. “I think that in recognizing that or at least recognizing we have a problem, that’s sort of the first step toward trying to eradicate the problem.”

Story by Emily Thornton, an English major at UH Hilo. Susan Enright, editor of UH Hilo Stories, contributed.

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