United Nations Day

A colorful celebration of diversity that began and ended with song and dance

Staff Writer Clara Scheidle
Photos Courtesy of Mirei Sugita

Two representatives

It’s days like this that are the most important to the most diverse school in all of America. United Nations Day is an international holiday created as a form of recognition and awareness of the world’s different countries and cultures. Though the actual day is set on Oct. 24, the International Students Association, who hosted the celebration, decided it would be even more significant if it were celebrated at UH Hilo during International Education Week, and thus: United Nations Day was held on Library Lanai on Nov. 16.

It began with a kipaepae, a traditional Hawaiian welcoming ceremony. And welcoming it was--across Library Lanai were a few dozen tables, each set up to represent the different countries of the people in charge of the tables. Many of these tables provided tri-fold display boards with information on their countries; some featured food, and others had hand-crafted items that were either brought from home or passed down from alumni. Since UH Hilo has such great diversity, this was a perfect opportunity for students and the community to connect and share their culture.

After the kipaepae began, the Shinto Lion Dance was performed by Puna Taiko. This featured a group of people who played music as a man with a bright mask resembling a shinto lion danced his way across the stage, sometimes coming forward to playfully snap the jaws of the lion at the spectators in the front rows.

The celebration ended with the Parade of Nations. Of the 37 countries represented on campus, 24 were able to attend and bear the flag for their countries. The procession began at the top of the steps to Campus Center all the way down to Library Lanai, where the ISA President Felicia “Tintin” Andrew read a short excerpt on what each nation is like and known for. Many were dressed in the traditional clothes of their nation, whether that meant a grass skirt or a painted silk dress.

The parade ended with the UH Hilo Samoan Club performing traditional dances and songs. The entire lanai vibrated with their enthusiasm and passion and the hallways echoed with their signature yell. Passers-by couldn’t help but stop and watch. It was full of energy and impossible to miss. That’s how United Nations Day ended--and also began; people applauding and appreciating traditions that, for some, come from far away and, for others, that come from close to home.

For Tintin, being in a community as diverse as UH Hilo has allowed her “to grow and be open-minded of the cultures around her” and “has created friendships and unity.”

Tintin emphasizes that having such diverse campus life is essential. “Our campuses, workplace, and neighborhoods grow over time, consisting of many people from many cultural backgrounds,” she says. “We need to learn and gain an understanding of others, have a perspective of where and how they were raised, what differences we have, and then turn those differences into our strengths to establish a well structured and peaceful society.”

ISA will be putting on a similar celebration in February: International Nights. The event will consist of two nights filled with singing, dancing, and learning about different countries from around the globe. Tintin describes it as an event that “shines on the beauty of having our diverse community.”

Tintin wants to shout out everyone who participated in making United Nations Day a success. “This event was possible because of the team’s efforts. Shout out to our greatest Advisor Jim Mellon and all the ISA officers- Alik Jackson (Vice President), Bertha Lotte (Treasurer), Mirei Sugita (Secretary), Lucy Maino (Social Media Coordinator), and Irie Taguchi (Volunteer Coordinator). To all the volunteers, thank you for taking the time off your schedule to help us make this event successful.”