Cultural clubs

Cultural clubs on campus allow students to explore and learn about different heritages.

Despite the many challenges this year has brought, spring is in the air in Spokane. Campus comes alive as the snow thaws and flowers sprout out of the ground. With a noticeable progression toward in-person interaction, university clubs are feeling the effects of this positive change, and are looking ahead to what the future may hold.

For cultural clubs on campus, spring brings new opportunities to host events and engage with the Gonzaga community. Many events will adopt a hybrid approach, encompassing both in-person and virtual elements.

One such event is the first online adaptation of Barrio Fiesta or Barrio for short. Barrio, which is normally hosted solely by the Filipino-American Student Union (FASU), will now be a livestream collaboration with the Asian-American Union (AAU).

This year’s collaborative Barrio will include modern and traditional dance performances, as well as traditional dishes from each cultural club. The event has a working date of April 10 and students can expect more information in the coming weeks.

As for FASU’s involvement, it will serve as a “celebration of Filipino-American culture to bring the Filipino-American culture to the Inland Northwest,” said FASU President Miguel Galendez.

In addition to the April 10 festival, FASU has successfully hosted a virtual silent disco, a Halloween movie night, a Chipotle fundraiser and has plans to put on a social tie-dyeing event soon. The club has ambitions of combining both social events and fundraising efforts, as the treasurer has high hopes for fundraisers this academic year, said Galendez.

In regards to having clubs on campus dedicated to cultural identity, Galendez feels adamant about the benefits of having spaces to talk about this and build community as a result.

“It’s important to tap into and understand our heritage... It’s for getting a better understanding of our identity as Filipino-Americans,” Galendez said.

Additionally, FASU hopes to clarify that the club is not exclusively for Filipino-Americans.

“We have other students from different backgrounds. We also include these students in our discussions about identity and how to understand it and learn to appreciate more where we come from,” said Galendez.

Intersectionality is also on the minds of FASU and other clubs. It is a topic that comes up regularly at meetings, and members pose questions about not only how they are personally affected by issues surrounding the Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community, but also how they can help others who are affected.

Galendez encourages students with an interest in participating in FASU to attend a club meeting, regardless of their background.

AAU President Lani Tu Va Abrams is also enthusiastic about growing AAU. Abrams encourages any with interest, regardless of background, to attend meetings and events.

“Come to meetings! Go to our joint festival, [buy] food and tickets, attend fundraisers and have hard conversations,” said Abrams via email.

In addition to the collaborative festival between AAU and FASU, there are also talks of an end-of-year celebration hosted by AAU, La Raza Latina and the Black Student Union.

Attending AAU has specifically helped Abrams learn about her Asian heritage in a safe and accurate way, she said. Abrams adds that it is important for cultural clubs to provide a safe space for students of color to hold conversations they otherwise may not feel comfortable having elsewhere.

One issue AAU has been zeroing in on as a result of COVID-19 is the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. Next month, AAU will be working alongside Diversity Inclusion Community and Equity, Office of Health Promotions and the Center for Cura Personalis to host an event on this topic, which will be held on April 14, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Abrams hopes this event will inspire not only concern, but action as well.

“[It is about] being open to listening and then taking away from that and standing in solidarity with us,” said Abrams.

Information about the collaborative festival between FASU and AAU can be found on both club’s Instagram pages, which are @gu_fasu and @gonzaga.aau, respectively.

For the Gonzaga International Student Union (ISU), a shared identity looks like vast cultural diversity. ISU, who would ordinarily be hosting their annual banquet, will now be creating care packages with international snacks popular in student’s home countries, t-shirts and other swag. The packages will be for sale in Hemmingson Center between March 25-26.

The club, which has about 30 active members, tackles topics such as homesickness and culture shock. After the Black Student Union Zoom bombing in November, ISU invited a Campus Security employee to speak at a meeting, said ISU President, Leire Corrales.

“We welcome everyone to join [and] have had many students in the past who are International Studies majors or have been abroad and want to meet people from the country they have been to,” said Corrales.

To become involved with ISU, students can connect with them on Zagtivities or via Instagram at @isu_gonzaga.

Another club working to help students navigate culture shock and homesickness is the Hawaii Pacific Islanders Club (HPIC). Although not all members are from the South Pacific, many are, and HPIC President, Kaila Okubo said the transition to Spokane is a major adjustment.

“Having people who recognize what you’re going through and can support you is so important,” said Okubo.

This semester for HPIC will closely resemble fall, with virtual meetings and events, though they may be participating in a multicultural event later in the spring.

At the beginning of the academic year, HPIC hosted their annual “Welcome Back” barbecue, which is a primary way to involve incoming freshman and introduce them to current members.

Okubo credits food as a major function of culture, especially for Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students.

“Food from home creates a ‘home away from home’ community,” said Okubo.

Sharing Spam musubis and catering events with cuisine from the Aloha Island Grill are some of the ways HPIC involves this aspect of culture, which Okubo says is distinct to Hawaii.

In addition to exploring Spokane’s Hawaiian food scene, HPIC also enjoys regularly making and sharing meals together.

“Cooking together is a bonding activity; the food we miss from home is not as readily available up here,” said Okubo.

Another way HPIC shares islander culture with each other and the greater Spokane community is through their annual luau.

“[At luaus] we can show a really small glimpse of what being from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands is,” said Okubo.

Though the HPIC luau is not taking place this spring, Zags can support the club in a number of ways. The best way to contribute to HPIC’s success is to show respect for the culture, educate oneself on cultural appropriation, be an ally and show up, Okubo said.

To keep up with all things HPIC, students can visit their Instagram page at @gonzaga_hpic.

Several cultural clubs, such as Latino/a Law Student Association (LLSA) in the GU School of Law, are finding ways to support each other and couple this camaraderie with professional development.

Having a community on campus that shares one’s cultural identity is “one of the most important parts of being a successful law student,” said LLSA President, Dalia Pedro Trujillo. There are 20 active members who comprise LLSA. 

A big event of theirs this spring will be a graduation celebration for third-year law students.

Graduating law school is a huge accomplishment and it is important to set a precedent to celebrate it with the Latinx community, said Pedro Trujillo.

The details of the event are still in a workshopping phase, but Pedro Trujillo is collaborating with the rest of the LLSA’s board members, as well as helping third-year law students transition to graduation, and finding student speakers to share insight with club members.

“Our vice president, Hisrael Carranza has a podcast-style program called ‘A Convo with Izzy,’ which is all about bringing new perspectives in,” said Pedro Trujillo.

The interviewees featured in “A Convo with Izzy,” have included Immigration Attorney Alexandra Lozano, Antonio Reza, a law student and formerly incarcerated advocate and Leah Wilborn-Neese, the social justice chair for the Gonzaga Student Body Association.

Earlier this year, LLSA worked together to organize a Dia De Los Muertos ofrenda honoring victims of police brutality.

In November, LLSA co-hosted a Zoom event titled “DACA; What Lies Ahead.” The DACA event (which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), featured Luis Cortes-Romero, a member of the legal team who took this year’s DACA case to the Supreme Court.

In terms of professional development, Pedro Trujillo notes that it’s important to provide avenues of support for Latinx law students.

“Often we don’t know what we don’t know. I didn’t know about networking when I got here,” said Pedro Trujillo.

Having a place that is dedicated to answering such questions in a compassionate environment is especially important for Latinx law students, many of whom are also first-generation law students, Pedro Trujillo said.

The organization also emphasizes giving back and encouraging leadership.

“It’s an amazing place to be a leader. We have titles and whatnot, but it’s all about us working together. We all had to believe in something and I think we all believe in LLSA,” said Pedro Trujillo.

Not only is it important to open doors for minority students, but it is equally important to keep them open. LLSA wants to ensure that graduated students who are now working in law sustain relationships with current law students, and vice versa.

“We want to build community and stay connected... If someone else has done it, it’s so much easier for you to do it too,” said Pedro Trujillo.

There are many ways to support what LLSA is doing at GU, but Pedro Trujillo highlights just a few, including, “following social media channels, spreading the word about events, being engaged in the issues we bring up, [engaging] with us in conversations; that’s how we all grow and get better as people. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

COVID-19 has changed many day-to-day aspects of life, but not the ability to learn and ask questions. This semester provides many opportunities to learn about cultures in a constructive and respectful way. For more information regarding specific events, visit Zagtivities or the Upcoming Events page at

gonzaga.edu.

Kate Sullivan is a staff writer. 

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