Amy HyunAh Pak is the founder and executive director of Families of Color Seattle (FOCS), a nonprofit focused on building community by supporting families of color through parenting programs, sharing resources, and fostering meaningful connections. An immigrant transracial adoptee, Pak is a community educator and social change worker committed to building a community of powerful, conscious, and creative families of color in Seattle. She is the mother of two young sons.
How did Families of Color Seattle (FOCS) get started?
The history of the collective goes back to 2010. I experienced a dramatic shift when I went from serving the South Seattle Asian Pacific Islander and youth community as a social worker and a student adviser at UW to being laid off and becoming a stay-at-home parent with my first son. Our extended families live in Hawaii and Minnesota. Raising a child without many resources, I felt we needed to find our network of progressive parents of color to share this experience. FOCS started informally with monthly potluck playdates that brought together 10 families from South Seattle.
I started connecting with other “advanced maternal age” new moms of color, like Stephanie Jones Peguero, who is Korean and black, and was concerned for her mixed-race daughter. She wanted to make sure Soleil would have a community of other brown babies like herself and wanted something beyond what mainstream mommy groups offered.
My father-in-law, radical writer Gary Pak, suggested I find work where I could bring my youngest son. Gary reminded me of the passion I have for community organizing. Many other new parents feel that dramatic shift of changing their identity, social circle and daily routine — experiences inherent to beginning a family and caring for a newborn. I jumped at the idea of making new mommy friends and coordinating playdates.
We challenge systems to provide avenues for entrepreneurial women of color, immigrants and new fathers. We teach children cultural resonance in a loving, inclusive community of families of color...
Who do you serve?
Little did I know, there was a growing community of families of color, including many new transplants to Seattle, a talented community of many highly educated, multicultural and multiracial older parents. We now have the whole range of local younger new parents with twins, transracial families through adoption, international families, and multiethnic and multiracial families from numerous locales, countries, languages, neighborhoods and professions. Facilitated gatherings provide a space for the group to discuss culture, bilingual homes, traditions and food, antibias schools, mixed-race experience and race consciousness.
When parents in the FOCS community ask, “How did you start FOCS?” I reference the spirit of ubuntu and say, “FOCS is because you are.” Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, writes, “Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life.” FOCS came at the right time for the climate of Seattle’s changing face of families with young children. Our collective has grown to 200 families in 1.5 years.
How did your partnership with the Collaboratory in Hillman City develop?
We heard about the progressive community space of Hillman City’s Collaboratory, a historic building at Rainier and Orcas. Cofounders John Helmiere and Ben Hunter welcomed FOCS and worked with us to accommodate our vision. Cornerstone Café launched on Oct. 20, 2014 with programs that include Brazilian capoeira, and Portuguese and Hawaiian ukulele and “talk story.” The mission of the café is intended to address the lack of entrepreneurial avenues for parents and women of color. We work hard to be a cultural cornerstone to address the economic threat to erase the character and cultural resonance of the South End. We stand to be part of the movement to de-gentrify our community.
What is your vision and plan for Cornerstone Café?
Cornerstone Café integrates conscious parenting and perpetuates a global culture of inclusivity, community building and play-centered learning. FOCS Cornerstone Café provides a creative blend of family programming with arts and culture, as well as multilingual classes for children and parents. There will be a community café, drop-in child care, evening forums, FOCS parent-child groups, workshops, experiential learning and outdoor play in the 4,000-square-foot community garden. New cultural arts programming for children of all ages is also offered every two months.
We challenge systems to provide avenues for entrepreneurial women of color, immigrants and new fathers. We teach children cultural resonance in a loving, inclusive community of families of color and integrate the local neighborhood of South Seattle’s rich and diverse cultural base, the 98118.