Families of Color Seattle is creating community through a paradigm of racial and social justice
Black families of FOCS.
Photo: Carina A. del Rosario, 2014
Seattle parent Amy HyunAh Pak is asking big questions about the unique concerns for families of color in Seattle: “How do we support families of color in a city that’s so rapidly gentrifying like Seattle is?”
The nonprofit organization that Pak founded and directs, Families of Color Seattle, is making moves this year, gearing up for continued growth. “This is a really big year for us.”
Families of Color Seattle, or FOCS (pronounced “folks”), is an organization that’s working to create space and meaningful community connections for families of color in Seattle. The organization’s programming reached an estimated 350 families of color last year, and they’re hoping to reach even more as they grow.
FOCS is working to help parents and children create a strong sense of community. Their programming is multi-part: they offer parent groups and classes, they host community dialogues, and they run the Cornerstone Cafe, to name just a few of their programs. The Cornerstone Cafe is particularly foundational to FOCS’ work: FOCS hosts classes for kids there as well as providing a free playspace for the community. The cafe has become a meeting space for many South Seattle parents (and parents farther afield) seeking community and solidarity as families of color in a city whose residents are so often framed and depicted as exclusively white.
FOCS is preparing for some institutional growth as well: the organization is hiring additional staff, continuing their monthly brunches hosted at libraries around town, hosting monthly community dialogues in partnership with the Department of Neighborhoods, and bringing on a fellow from Rainier Valley Corps, a leadership corps that places emerging leaders of color in nonprofits led by communities of color. In particular, FOCS is hoping to grow their ability to support marginalized subcultures within Seattle like single parents, black mothers of multiple children, and queer families of color, creating parent groups that focus on their specific needs.
On the part of the families that FOCS serves, the response to FOCS’ programming has been striking: families feel that they’ve found a space that hadn’t been present. Even something as simple as finding a playspace for kids can be a challenge for families of color in Seattle: many playspaces are located in neighborhoods that are mostly white and in parts of the city that are inconvenient for many families of color, as well as being very culturally homogenous and sometimes unequipped to serve the unique concerns of families of color.
FOCS’s work is undergirded by an ethic of racial and social justice. Amy Pak says that in particular, FOCS is concerned with providing a space for “raising children in a racialized world.” “How do we give parents the tools to equip kids to talk about race and identity?” she asks.
While she recognizes the immense work still to come for her organization, Pak feels heartened by the increasing visibility of conversations on race, identity, and justice, particularly as spurred on by the Black Lives Matter movement. Pak notes that even the use of the term and concept of white supremacy (ie, the cultural, social, and political institution of racism that benefits white folks) as opposed to models of diversity or colorblindness offers a more specific paradigm through which to combat racism. She mentions that for communities of color that aren’t black, it can be difficult to intentionally seek out antiracism, as white supremacy doesn’t affect non-black POC in the same way. “How do we work together to reduce complicity between non-black people of color and white supremacy?” she asks. Pak is interested in figuring out how non-black communities of color can understand and work to combat state and institutional violence that’s targeted toward black folks.
Along with their commitment to antiracist community-building, FOCS wants to give families opportunities to cultivate meaningful cultural heritage and experiences. Families may want their children to have a connection to their specific cultural heritage or native language. She notes that many of the families that FOCS serves have one African parent; figuring out how to keep traditions alive that honor their kids’ culture and race is immensely important to many of those families. FOCS also wants to encourage literacy for parents around race, culture, and the intersection of the two, particularly for parents who may be white and have a child of color.
Photo: Jeriel Calamayan, 2015
Dads of FOCS gather together.
Pak also mentioned the fact that we’re facing a cultural shift in the 21st century: last year, amongst kindergartners, children of color outnumbered white children. The ways in which we depict children and childhood will continue to shift, and centering the experiences of children of color – as opposed to treating whiteness as the default experience of childhood – is of paramount importance.
FOCS’ upcoming program Parenting Without Borders will focus on empowering parents to raise kids in a way that’s culturally meaningful to them, challenging Eurocentric models of parenting that often frame non-Western parenting practices as archaic or dangerous. FOCS also plans to host pop-up playdates in north and south Seattle this fall where families of color can connect with each other.
To get involved with Families of Color Seattle, check out their upcoming free Community Dialogues, featuring local community organizers and parents as well as performances by Seattle spoken word youth organization Youth Speaks. Childcare will be provided.
Talking Race, Identity & Racism
Saturday, Oct 10, 10:30 am to 1 pm
Friday, Nov 13, 5 to 8 pm (potluck)
Anti-Bias Education & Schools
Saturday, Dec 5, 10:30 am to 1 pm
Friday, Jan 22, 5 to 8 pm (potluck)
Transracial Adoption Experiences
Saturday, Feb 27, 10:30 am to 1 pm
Many thanks to Amy Pak and FOCS.