By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Inspired by her mother’s passion for international travel and global citizenship, Amy Pak started Families of Color Seattle (FOCS), an organization dedicated to building a strong community by supporting families of color through parenting programs, resource sharing, and fostering meaningful connections.
Pak grew up in a homogenous community, and was adopted by white American parents at age 6. She has an older non-biological brother from South Korea, also adopted.
“We were raised in a standard, middle-class Midwest WASP-y town in Minnesota,” Pak said.
Her father, an artist, and mother, an international educator, always hosted international students in their home.
“We always had a really nice value system around arts and creativity, and respective traditions. Our parents tried their best to reinforce global culture, values, and understanding around the contributions of international people and cultures,” she explained.
After she entered college, Pak realized how curious she was about the world and the concept of diversity.
“That’s where my race consciousness began,” she said of her experience at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.
“My own personal journey of community organizing and collective consciousness around advocacy around the API (Asian Pacific Islander) community has been a beautiful experience,” she said.
Pak’s first job out of college was teaching English in South Korea.
“It helped me reclaim what being a Korean American was about, having my feet in both worlds, and not feeling like I was in either. I was really starting to understand my racial identity, and found a passion for youth programs and youth leadership,” she said.
FOCS is a grassroots and mostly volunteer-run organization. According to its website, FOCS helps parents and children build a strong sense of community, advocacy, and pride. It counters prevailing biases through a race and social justice lens, and by providing a counter-narrative through parenting classes and social media.
The organization has grown a lot in the past year. In addition to the Cornerstone Café, which is a multicultural gathering space for families and the south Seattle community, FOCS holds workshops on parenting skills, infant massage, natural bath remedies, and yoga, to name a few.
Additionally, authors of color are featured in discussions called RICE (Race, Identity, Culture, and Ethnicity). All this dialogue is open to the public. FOCS has also begun workshops for preschools, which include topics such as talking about racism with your children.
The organization continues to expand its reach to different areas in Seattle, fulfilling its tagline, “connecting parents to build a loving community of families of color.”
Pak aims to encourage more conversations about racism and colorism, and what the nonprofit and community can do to keep families of color in Seattle, especially with the rising costs.
“How do we keep women of color in the workforce, while balancing really hard double jeopardy?”
With the upcoming election, Pak said FOCS has been approached to back certain issues related to paid family leave, education, and immigration.
“Our greatest purpose is to inform our parents and help them make the best choices. This is a place where folks can bring awareness, so they can be informed and educated responsible voters. Also as a collective, it’ll be interesting to see where we move,” she said.
During this exciting time for the organization, Pak credits a lot of her accomplishments to her mentors in the API community.
“I grew along with them, became a community activist, and learned to find my voice. I really have so much gratitude for a lot of my elders,” she explained.
Within the community, Pak also found love. Her husband, Daniel, is from Hawaii, and even though they come from different backgrounds, their love and ability to identify with the community around social justice made them a great match.
He has his own nonprofit called Totem Star, which helps youth learn how to write music and perform as a way to keep them in the recording studios and off the streets.
“We’re wealthy in the community, we know what we stand for, and we build community every day,” Pak said. “We’re both addressing issues of racial justice, anti-racism, equity and access to resources, and the pursuit of happiness for children and family. It’s been a great experience, the work definitely called us.”
Nina Huang can be reached at email@example.com.