UCLA Events

Keep up to date with what’s happening with the Asian American community on UCLA campus.

UCLA Pacific Islands’ Student Association (PISA) hosted its 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night at Ackerman Grand Ballroom on Saturday, March 11, 2017. The evening consisted of an authentic Samoan dinner catered by Kumar’s Island Market/Boutique Samoa Market in Anaheim, Calif. and traditional cultural dances and music of the islands of Polynesia.

Cultures featured during the night included those of Maori, Hawai’i, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, and Tonga.

Students of UCLA PISA and Hui O ‘Imiloa – Hawai’i Club at UCLA performed, along with members from other organizations outside UCLA. Some of these other organizations include Tupulaga (Carson, Calif.), CSUF South Pacific Islander Student Association, and UCR Pacific Islander Student Alliance.

Performance by Tupulaga.
Performance by Amelia Vernon.
UCLA PISA’s 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night.

Informational poster boards on the cultures of the islands represented during the show were also displayed.

Informational board of Aotearoa.
Informational board of Tahiti.

The 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night was hosted by Keali’i Troy Kukahiko, a graduate student in UCLA’s Department of Education. Kukahiko expressed his appreciation of Polynesian Arts & Culture Night as it reflected the growing and thriving community of Pacific Islander (PI) students at UCLA. In contrast, Kukahiko described his undergraduate experience at UCLA as isolating, being one of eight PI undergraduate students.

Although the number of PI undergraduate students at UCLA has grown, the community continues to be underrepresented and underreported. The program for the 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night included a description of UCLA PISA stating that Pacific Islanders make up less than one percent of the student population at UCLA.

On UCLA’s online campus profile, Asian and Pacific Islander ethnicities are grouped together, claiming to make up 32.1 percent of undergraduate student enrollment as of Fall 2016. UCLA’s reported facts reflects the problematic data aggregation of Asians and Pacific Islanders that contributes to the masking and erasing of specific issues and challenges that Pacific Islander students face in higher education.

During the evening, Kukahiko remarked that the students in UCLA PISA performing during the night were “not just performers but activists.” In actively serving and building its communities, UCLA PISA outreaches to PI students in Los Angeles schools, helps PI students come to UCLA, provides a support system for the PI community at UCLA, and more.

While Kukahiko closed the show saying that the event “wouldn’t be a culture night without [the audience’s] love and presence,” the 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night would not have been possible without UCLA PISA’s dedication to raising awareness about Polynesian culture through sharing the beauty and resiliency of its communities. 

Faith and Chai was hosted Monday, Feb. 21, 2017 , by Jasmine Patel, and Vincent Loyal, both second-year biology students from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship as a space for South Asian students of different faiths to discuss what is similar and what is different about their faiths.

Patel said that “[Faith and Chai] was created by South Asian InterVarsity as a way to reach more South Asian students on campuses across the nation” while Loyal wanted to create a space for dialogue, discussion about faith, and a community for South Asians.

About twenty students, ranging from first to fourth-years, of different South Asian backgrounds came for the first meeting, greeted by the friendly faces of Vincent and Jasmine. They explained their aims for the space to be where one learnt from another no matter the faith background. In addition, they hoped to create a network of new friendships and for participants to consider how faith and spirituality play a role in their lives this quarter and beyond.

An important community agreement Vincent and Jasmine addressed before breaking into groups was to enforce, wherever possible, the use of ‘I’ statements. They added that people are individuals, not spokespeople for their own faiths. It adds a lot of pressure on individuals to speak for their communities, rather than for themselves and their experiences. Other community agreements included having respect for others even if there was disagreement about a certain perspective, and an equal level of participation among all people in the discussion.

Before having groups of students engage in dialogue, there was a team building exercise that involved participants assembling structures from old newspapers, paper clips and rubber bands in a friendly yet competitive manner. “While it seemed silly first,” said Lamia Abbas, a second-year psychobiology student, “it eased conversations about faith later on.” The winners of this short exercise were treated to the samosas (deep fried pastry snack prevalent in many South Asian countries) and chai first.

The dialogues began about an hour after the event began, allowing  an hour’s time for the significant conversations to ensue. The questions suggested ranged from “What is the central message or chief goal of your faith” to “In your opinion, what is humankind’s reason for being?” In response to the former question, Abbas said, “[my] relationship with organized religion is complicated.” Similar sentiments were echoed by students Vineet Mathew, a second-year computational and systems biology student and a Shrita Pendekanti, a second-year neuroscience student.

There were many great takeaways from the event. One of the last questions by Loyal, “what have you come to appreciate of different faiths in the South Asian community?” made it clear how positively the dialogue impacted the attendees. Matthew appreciated “realizing how similar we all are” while Pendekanti lauded how during the dialogue, others “articulated thoughts [she] had but wasn’t able to express.” Marsha Noeline, a second-year mechanical engineering student concluded that “in the coming years, these spaces are going to be really necessary.”

Although the event was supposed to end at 9 p.m.,  conversations lasted for far longer than that. Both student organizers received a lot of positive feedback, and Patel said they “want to continue to create spaces where South Asian students can come together to share about their own faiths and learn about others. We are also very open to collaborating with other South Asian groups on campus to make these events more widely known and more welcoming to the South Asian community.”


On Friday, March 3, Nikkei Student Union (NSU) hosted their 31st Annual Cultural Night: “Chirashi” in Royce Hall, a reminder of the persecution and discrimination Japanese Americans faced during World War II, with the implementation of Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942.

This executive order forced more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent living in the United States, mostly American citizens, into incarceration among ten concentration camps, a process that not only violated personal liberties but also took away ownership of property and tore apart families.

To acknowledge the history of this experience, NSU uses cultural night as a night where, according to their program, “we commemorate the memory of those incarcerated, showcase our talents to the UCLA community, and celebrate the richness of our beloved Japanese American community.”

This year’s title, “Chirashi,” meaning “scattered,” is a Japanese dish usually served with a mix of different kinds of fish and vegetables that are laid together on top of rice.

Chirashi “was a metaphor for the multiple storylines within the drama that conveys the larger theme of acknowledging the variety of motivations that bring people into our community,” said Emiko Kranz, the current NSU president.

We are first introduced to Lynn (portrayed by Stacy Kadomasu), who is somewhat a hot-headed girl. She is followed by Samson (Justin Shinn), who invites her to his staggering family restaurant, Chirashi.

Lynn often worked begrudgingly in the restaurant because she owes Samson a debt, but, through Samson’s cousin June (Emiko Kranz), who is helping with the family restaurant, Lynn learns that Chirashi had been a safe haven for Japanese Americans during WWII — a place where they could be treated like equal human beings.

However, Samson, despite being the current restaurant owner, ran off with the restaurant’s funds, including June and Lynn’s payments. The story later reveals that Samson ran away because his fate was tied to the restaurant, which burdened him.

Samson explaining why he had left the restaurant. Photo courtesy of Brian Kohaya.

As soon as Samson ran off with the money, a contracting firm appears, announcing that the restaurant will be soon evicted.

Meanwhile, Tetsuya (played by Joey Yasuhiro) is introduced as one of the contracting firm representatives, who had a similar experience to June and Lynn. In order to protect his family’s flower shop and his sick mom, Tetsuya joined his uncle’s contracting firm, where he has to evict staggering yet historical and community-centered shops often.

In the end, Samson returned the money to June and Lynn, who then worked with Grace (Kendra Motoyasu), an architect and Tetsuya’s friend, and Noburu (Andre Leite) who quit working at the contracting firm, to restore Chirashi as a place for the community.

Throughout the show, NSU Modern, Odori, and Kyodo Taiko’s performances demonstrated the different aspects of Japanese and Japanese American cultures and reinforced the culture night’s themes by conveying the emotions of the characters.

Performance by Kyodo Taiko. Photo courtesy of Brian Kohaya.

For example, “Tanuki Senbonzakura” by NSU Odori, “Boot Camp” by NSU Modern, and all of Kyodo Taiko’s compositions were military themed.

According to Kranz, “While the drama wasn’t openly aggressive, there was a certain amount of frustration and anger represented by the struggles each character faced whether the battle was internal or external.”

Through “Chirashi,” NSU hoped to communicate the importance of perspective, historical consciousness, and resistance to injustice through their experiences as Japanese Americans.

Today, fear-mongering against the Muslim communities in the United States is perpetuated by the signing of Executive Order 13769 on Jan. 27, following the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.

The executive order placed restrictions on refugees entering the United States, targeting  individuals coming from the countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  

It should be no surprise then that the issuance of Executive Order 13769 has spurred many Japanese American communities to stand with the Muslim communities due to similarities of propaganda used to target these groups.

It is through these conditions that the Nikkei Student Union’s Cultural Night serves as a powerful platform to share knowledge about their history to the surrounding UCLA community during these times.  

Regarding the story behind the culture night, Kranz stated that “following the recent events that have affected the political climate such as Trump’s inauguration and the executive orders limiting immigration, we decided to bring in the focus on historical consciousness through the drama.”  

Kranz, a graduating senior and a fundamental pillar in past NSU cultural nights, reflects on “Chirashi” with her hopes for future productions: “The Nikkei community has endured much struggle with the incarceration experience and has fought its way back up in society and I think [the cultural night] is the vehicle by which we can extend our voice to a wider audience and remind everyone how Japanese Americans have made their place here and feel responsible to empower other groups.”


UCLA Kendo Club is holding its 10th Annual Yuhihai Intercollegiate Kendo Tournament this Sunday on Feb. 26. The tournament will be in the gym in the Student Activities Center and start at 9 a.m.

Written as “剣道” or “the way of the sword,” kendo can formally be described as a way “to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the katana,” says Jenny Huang, a fourth-year business economics major and vice president of the UCLA Kendo Club.

In simpler terms, explains Jenny Chim, a fourth-year psychology major and the club’s president, kendo is somewhat like “Japanese fencing.”

Both Huang and Chim joined the UCLA Kendo Club as first-years, without any prior kendo experience. Now as the club’s vice president and president, respectively, both women are eager to help pass on the “kendo college experience.” Part of that experience is the annual tournament, Yuhihai, which they are the primary organizers for.

This year’s Yuhihai Tournament is particularly special because it marks the tournament’s 10th anniversary.

“I think we’re hoping to really showcase how much Yuhihai has grown throughout the past 10 years,” said Huang.

This year’s Yuhihai Tournament will include 11 schools from across the U.S. and around 160 participants. The tournament will begin with opening ceremonies that include guest sensei, or instructors, from Japan – Shinotsuka Masuo and Tadaomi Hojo – both of whom are members of Japanese law enforcement.

Shinotsuka sensei was also the one who named the annual tournament “Yuhihai” — which means “a great leap full of bravery and ambition” — with hopes that the club and the tournament will help students aspire to bravely move forward, face adversity head on, and to always keep a sense of determination.

Photo courtesy of Steven Kim and the UCLA Kendo Club

After the opening ceremonies, the tournament’s competitions will begin with individual rounds in the morning, while the team divisions will take place in the afternoon. Chim and Huang also gave high regards to the club’s women’s team, which has taken gold in the individual division for two years in a row.

For the team divisions, the club took third place last year and second place the year before in the Yuhihai tournament. They also placed second for two years consecutively in Harvard’s Shoryuhai Tournament.

“We’re aiming for first this year,” said both Chim and Huang.

The Yuhihai Tournament is not only a place for kenshi, a kendo practitioner, to test their skills. It is also a symbol of “kendo presence in California,” explained Huang.

Yuhihai was originally founded to fill in a gap for kenshi on the West Coast.

“Ten years ago, people only talked about Harvard’s tournament,” Chim said. However, there was already a sizable kendo presence in California, so “why not do it here?”

With participants that include opponents all the way from Boston University, the tournament’s existence highlights the ongoing expansion of the kendo community from the West to East Coast.

While there is currently no official inter-collegiate competition in the U.S., Huang hopes that the Tournament’s continuing success will “raise kendo to a more prominent level.”

On a more personal level, Chim and Huang are looking forward to the culmination of their work as Yuhihai’s primary organizers. Huang explained that she cherishes learning “exactly how much effort it takes to make the tournament enjoyable for everyone.”

Chim also feels that sense of responsibility, coupled with the unity that comes from meeting and connecting with different generations of the Kendo Club’s members and alumni.

From the time they spent with others and the experiences they shared with other members at the club and tournaments, Chim and Huang feel that it is definite that they will return as alumnas to continue the long-held, generational tradition that lies within kendo and Yuhihai.

For more information on UCLA Kendo Club, please check out: UCLA Kendo.


On Friday, October 28, 2016, UCLA Campus Events Commission hosted a Free Speaker event with Disney writer and director, Jared Bush, who discussed the production — from creating characters to of Disney’s upcoming “Moana.” The film takes place in the South Pacific, and is about an adventurous teenage girl who sets out on a mission to save her people by locating the “mighty demigod,” Maui, and discovers her self-identity.  

Bush is the co-creator, executive producer, and writer for Disney XD’s animated comedy adventure series “Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero.” He also participated in the development of Oscar-winning animations “Big Hero 6” and “Frozen,” worked as a screenwriter and co-director for “Zootopia,” and, more recently, served as a screenwriter for “Moana.”

During the event, Bush directly addressed the topic of Moana’s production with firm conviction, stating that Disney made numerous efforts to make the animation culturally accurate and entertaining.

Disney writer and Director Jared Bush at CEC Speaker Event

Before “Moana,” the last notable Pacific Islander animation film from Disney was “Lilo & Stitch,” and since then there has not been a film representing the Pacific Islander community in Hollywood. Thus, when Disney announced that its new animated feature will be about a heroine’s adventure in the ancient South Pacific, fans were not only excited for this film, which celebrates Pacific Island cultures, but also anxious about possible cultural misappropriation.

Prior to the Halloween season, Disney began selling costumes of characters from the film, which caused controversy. The Maui costume, in particular, was the most criticized because its tattooed brown skin was regarded as a form of “brownface” that also disrespected the cultural importance of tattoos in the Pacific Islander heritage.

The BBC reported: “After the release of Moana, Maui may be a Disney character to some, but to  many Pacific people, he is very real – a hero, ancestor, demi-God and a spiritual guide.”

In response to numerous protests that argued culture is not a costume, Disney apologized and removed the costumes from stores. However, the damage has been done, and people are more anxious than hopeful.

According to Bush, however, Disney’s approach to “Moana” will properly introduce culturally inclusive and sensitive standards, settings a hopeful precedent that Pacific Islander community  will receive respectful media representation. To do this, Disney sent a portion of the crew, including artists and animators, on a three week trip to the Pacific Islands to gain a better understanding of the local traditions and cultures.

While on the trip, one local Elder asked the crew, For years we have been swallowed by your culture…for once can you be swallowed by ours?

Hollywood films are globally recognized and influential, but their profitable grand spectacles often undermine the need to have accurate racial and cultural representations. Thus, many popular films that are suppose to have characters played by people of color are replaced by white actors – this is commonly known as whitewashing.

Similarly, Disney animations tend to be successful and influential on a global scale, but are often subject to criticism for reasons such as a lack of racial diversity and stereotypical portrayals.  

Disney’s “Peter Pan” is a clear example of an all-white cast that portrayed over-the-top exaggerations of Native American. For example, the song “What Makes The Red Man Red?” categorizes a group of Native Americans as uncivilized savages.

Although one may argue that “Peter Pan” is an older Disney film made in 1953 and point out that the times were different then, the film still remains a reminder that if not carefully produced, the animation can and will send negative and offensive messages to its massive audience and harm the communities they represent.

To present an accurate representation, Disney assembled an exclusive group of cultural specialists, the Oceanic Story Trust, to examine the screenwriting and animation drafts to prevent misrepresentations.

The Moana sound crew also consisted of musical artists Opetaia Foa’i and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who are from Oceania and familiar with traditional Oceania music, respectively, along with Mark Mancina, who had previously composed for “The Lion King.”

In terms of casting the two lead roles of the movie, Moana and Maui, the crew recruited Pacific Islanders Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, respectively.

Throughout the event, Bush shared exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of the production, along with sneak previews of the movie. The audience was able to be immersed into the “Moana Ohana” from animation scenes that did not make the cut, to clips of Johnson singing his heart out as Maui.

Bush also mentioned that Disney films take an extensive amount of time to produce; “Moana,” for instance, took five years to produce.

“The film is never finished until it is released,” Bush said. He explained that at Disney, films are constantly changing and, for Moana alone, he made about 700 drafts as a screenwriter.

However, he believes that while this process is strenuous, it allows the film’s production to have time to discover its mistakes and allow the story and characters to develop deeper and more fluidly.

“Moana” will be released during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, October 28, marked UCLA’s annual Pilipinx American History Month (PAHM) Festival.  The festival highlighted the different Pilipino organizations found on campus; celebrated the past and present; and featured traditional cuisine, demonstrations of dance and martial arts, and even trap music from a DJ.  

Despite the amount of activities offered at the PAHM Festival, it became glaringly obvious that its true strength lied within its community.  While the event aimed to increase visibility for the clubs involved, organizers emphasized inclusion of everyone in the UCLA community, not just Pilipino students.  As a result, participants of the PAHM festival were able to explore Pilipino culture and history without inhibition, learning the national dance of the Philippines and Pilipino martial arts, while experiencing performances from groups such as Tinig Choral and Samahang Modern.  Without further ado, here are snippets from some of the people behind the PAHM festival.  


Noodle Bagaporo, the current president of Samahang Pilipino

Noodle (Natalie) Bagaporo, President of Samahang Pilipino:

“This is the PAHM festival, which we have every fall quarter.  This one is special because we finally got it in Bruin Plaza.  We really wanted to get visibility for our culture so we had the food out here, the dances and performances, and the clubs out here.  The clubs are part of the Mabuhay Collective, which is the overall collective of Pilipino clubs at UCLA, so we had them table so that the Pilipino community at UCLA can see the resources we have for them, and for everyone else, just get an opportunity to learn about our culture and experiences.”

“Being Pilipino American, to me, has been a journey, a lot of questions, self-discovery, self-creation.  The thing about Pilipinos are that we are such a diverse group of people due to our history with colonization and new generational conflicts that being Pilipino or Pilipino American can’t be defined by a couple of sentences, and to me, being Pilipino American means being a part of a beautiful and diverse community, it means representing the struggles of your answers and paving the path for future generations.  It means celebrating the great food, dances, and artwork.  Being Pilipino American means being different, and when it comes to being Samahang, Pilipino American, I just have the most love for it.  It comes from the heart, it’s word vomit, I know, but it comes from the heart.”


Pictured from left to right: Jonathan Alcantara, Andrew Sam, Michael Estabillo, and Czarina Anglo.
Pictured from left to right: Jonathan Alcantara, Andrew Sam, Michael Estabillo, and Czarina Anglo.

Andrew Sam, Samahang Pilipino and Pilipino Transfer Student Partnership:

“So SPCN is a cultural night we play in Royce Hall every May.  It’s like a play – no, a musical, that showcases the cultural dances.  It’s an original story, an original concept, and in between all the scenes is the cultural dances.  And the musical aspect tries to tell a story about the issues the Pilipino community faces.”

Jonathan Alcantara, Samahang Pilipino and Pilipino Transfer Student Partnership:

“Also, we’re trying to make Cultural Attire Wednesday happen.  Wear your cultural attire….  every Wednesday!”


Members of Samahang Pilipino demonstrate the national dance, tinikling.
Members of Samahang Pilipino demonstrate the national dance, tinikling.
As the crowd grew bigger, more people joined in and learned to dance.
As the crowd grew bigger, more people joined in and learned to dance.
Austin Devera, dance troupe co-coordinator for Samahang Pilipino.
Austin Devera, dance troupe co-coordinator for Samahang Pilipino.

Austin Devera, Dance Troupe Co-Coordinator for Samahang Pilipino:

“This dance is called tinikling.  It’s one of the most well-known dances of the Philippines.  It’s considered the national dance of the Philippines.   The dancers mimic the movements of the tinikling birds.  As they move, they mimic the movements of the tinikling birds trying to escape from the bamboo traps the farmers set for them.”


Kappa Psi Epsilon tabling at the PAHM festival.
Kappa Psi Epsilon tabling at the PAHM festival.

Ashley Basco, Social Chair for Kappa Psi Epsilon:

“So right now we are doing a Baybayin workshop, which is the ancient Pilipino writing system.  The Spaniards tried to completely eradicate it, but it still lives on, and it’s a part of the visibility we are bringing to it, and to the Pilipino community, as well.”


Pictured from left to right: Enrico Cortez practicing a choreographed fight scene with his partner, Michael Estabillo.
Pictured from left to right: Enrico Cortez practicing a choreographed fight scene with his partner, Michael Estabillo.

Michael Estabillo, Samahang Pilipino, Pilipino Transfer Student Partnership:

“Pilipino Transfer Student Partnership, or PTSP, is a club which helped me, a Bay Area transfer, to be more confident as a transfer. They are a welcoming group of people that helped ease the transition to becoming a UCLA student and helped foster my growth as not only a student, but as a Pilipino transfer. They actively advocated for transfer issues and provided the academic and social resources for transfers like me to feel accepted. Last year, PTSP accepted me with open arms and became that nourishing community that I didn’t expect for myself to find in UCLA.”


Therese Nicole Diñoso, who organized this year's PAHM festival.
Therese Nicole Diñoso, who organized this year’s PAHM festival.

Therese Nicole Diñoso, Cultural Coordinator for Samahang Pilipino:

“For Samahang Pilipino’s upcoming events, this quarter we have the Justice for Filipino-American Veterans March, where we work with Pilipino organizations to march in protest for Pilipino veterans who fought in World War II but never got equal benefits and rights as other veterans.  We are also working on a Historic Filipinotown exposure trip to take students to Los Angeles and understand the historical and cultural context of Pilipino history in Los Angeles itself, as it houses the largest Pilipino mural in the U.S.”


Special thanks to Samahang Pilipino, Pilipino Transfer Student Partnership, and Kappa Psi Epsilon for their contributions, as well as Michael Estabillo and Jonathan Alcantara for their efforts in connecting the author to these contributors.



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