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Field Trip: Cornerstone Cafe in South Seattle, a New Multicultural Community Space

Free play, tot breakdancing classes, parent support and more

Kali Sakai

Published on: January 14, 2015

Nestled between Beacon Hill and Seward Park in South Seattle’s Hillman City neighborhood, Cornerstone Cafe is a recently opened community space housed within the historic Hillman City Collaboratory building. Overseen by the nonprofit Families of Color Seattle (FOCS), Cornerstone offers a unique blend of intercultural and multiethnic family programming and services, from a tot playspace to cultural arts classes and parent support groups. It even has a small garden behind the building.

“FOCS started as a community response for families of color to meet other families who are new parents and enjoy discussing race, identity, culture and ethnicity as we raise our children and share our common experiences,” says Amy HyunAh Pak, MSW, founder and executive director of the organization.

Cornerstone's play space

If you have kids up to age 6, the easiest way to access Cornerstone is via its play space, which parents and kids can drop by to use five days a week (see hours at right).

The play area is set up and taken down each day in main room of the Collaboratory. Large canvas sheets and strategically placed shelves carve out a long, open space next to the windows and a wall covered in local art. Couches and sitting areas line the other walls, creating a general meeting and activity space.

The day my 2-year-old son and I dropped in, he headed for the play area and especially for the overflowing bins of trucks. It's stocked with eco and retro toys, books, building sets and a dollhouse. Luckily for us, we were also treated to a storytime and bug-finding garden activity by the Talking Tree Program from the Seward Park Audubon Center that day.

Cornerstone Cafe play space. Photo credit: Kali Sakai

It’s clear that this organization is serious about offering unique experiences that foster cross-cultural appreciation. Despite the rise of escalating racial tensions in the news, at Cornerstone the emphasis is on the healthy development of ethnic and cultural identity as well as community building.

With this goal, the Cornerstone Cafe seems well on their way. “In the past 1.5 years, we have connected over 200 families through our various programming and are amazed at the response of families who value building a loving community of families of color,” says Pak. “Many of us don’t have extended family here and now [we] feel like we do.”  

Pak and her team are thinking big. They hope Cornerstone Cafe will eventually have a permanent space and offer more parent groups, evening programs and arts workshops. They also want to restart a drop-in child care program, offer a full-service community cafe and employ more of the community to support working parents

Current programs offered at Cornerstone

A sampling of Cornerstone's offerings is below, but check Families of Colors' website for an updated events and classes calendar. Find the registration form for all programs here. Classes for kids are $15 to drop in or $110 for an eight-week series; $5 per class for siblings. (There is also a $20/year registration fee.) Scholarships are available.

Free parent-supervised playtime (for 0-6-year-olds). Monday–Wednesday 9:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Drop by to use the free playspace during these times.

Breakdancing and movement class (for 1–5-year-olds): Wednesdays at 10 a.m.

Brazilian Portuguese and capoeira (for ages 4–9 years): Thursdays 3:30 p.m.–4:15 p.m.

Hawaiian talk story and ukulele music (for ages 4–9 years to learn ukulele, but all ages welcome): Fridays 4–4:45 p.m.

Moms support groups, newborn or waddler (for ages 6 months—3 years): Eight-week programs, meeting two hours a week. $130/session.

Dads groups: Free weekly play dates for dads.

Pair with: Try the nearby Tin Umbrella Coffee for coffee and snacks. For lunch, try Geraldine's Counter Restaurant in Columbia City, just a ten-minute walk or a two-minute car ride. Also, wonderful Seward Park is a quick drive away

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