This article was originally published in the Seattle Globalist and has been reprinted with permission.
by Reagan Jackson
As a neighborhood between South Seattle’s Columbia City and Rainier Beach, Hillman City has hardly garnered the reputation of being a hotbed for community in the recent past. But change is coming, and with it, new initiatives, businesses and families that are slowly changing the face of the neighborhood.
The two-story brick building is filled with community art among office and meeting spaces, and the backyard is a lush garden. The Collaboratory bills itself as an incubator for social change, hosting a wide range of gatherings from community dinners to Labor Chorus concerts to drop-in yoga and child care for families of color.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, I stopped by the space to meet with Amy HyunAh Pak, the founder of Families of Color Seattle (FOCS). FOCS — fittingly pronounced “folks” — is the Collaboratory’s newest anchor tenant and hosts Cornerstone Café, which provides multicultural drop-in child care for little ones of color five years old and younger.
“FOCS started as a community response to have a space for families of color to meet other families who are new parents and enjoy discussing race, identity, culture, ethnicity as we raise our children and share our common experiences. There’s a growing number of multiracial families in Seattle who value balancing our multiplicities of language, trans-nationalities and ethnicities,” says Pak. “ We are an intercultural, multiethnic community of conscious parents who are engaged towards our vision where children of color are born into a loving community that is racially and economically just.”
FOCS began three years ago as a group of 10 families of community educators and activists who happened to be having children around the same time. This met an “interesting surge” of transplant families of color in search of parent programs and opportunities to meet parents raising multiracial families, said Pak. What began as a once-a-month potluck with the support of Open Arms Perinatal Services grew into parenting programs, classes, discussion groups and other child care resources. This year, Pak established FOCS as a 501(c)3.
Some have referred to FOCS as the “people of color” version of Program for Early Parent Support (PEPs), but Pak doesn’t relish the comparison.
“I don’t like having the standard be white. I just don’t think that has to be what it is,” Pak explains. “I feel like women of color were always gathering. And now that we don’t have our families or the church or the neighborhood with the aunties and all the cousins, you have to create that community, and that’s what FOCS is doing.”