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HSD Employee Spotlight—Adam Aba-Husain

Adam Aba-Husain is a Senior Grants & Contracts Specialist in the Seattle Human Services Department’s Aging and Disability Services (ADS) division. He has worked at Seattle Human Services for nine years.

What is your role at Seattle Human Services? 

I am a Public Servant and a member of HSD ADS Grants and Contracts (G&C) Unit.

What made you want to work in human services? 

I’m Muslim. Family man. Humanist. Human rights supporter and advocate. I’m a male feminist. I appreciate opportunities to connect beliefs and values and to build positive relationships with others. I’m also a Kuwaiti immigrant. State of Kuwait is a donor country and contributes to the world communities. Where I come from, we speak less of the individuals and more about the greater collective needs and support. I’m also a Seattle resident and a supporter of many of our City of Seattle community partners. I believe in connecting people with resources and solutions during times of hardship. On a more personal level, helping others gives greater purpose to my existence, our communities, and the universe we share.  

Adam wearing military gear.

My background includes work with local community-based organizations (CBOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the military, Arab Union governmental organizations, corporate, and international agencies. I acquired skill sets and languages, and my diverse cultural background has helped me map needs and gaps and bridge understanding among communities.

My previous employment included the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), working on strategic development goals, and management of Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah (Cultural Diplomacy Services) and South-South and Triangular Cooperation. As part of a team, I helped build and extend relationships among UN members states. I connected with and helped align signed memorandums of understanding and agreements related to the State of Kuwait.

Adam signing a document during his time at the UN

For those who are interested to learn more about the State of Kuwait’s generous contributions to the world community and my small contributing role as facilitator “connector” of different views and funding resources, watch “KUWAIT – At the Frontline” on YouTube. 

How has your job changed in recent years? 

Change is good, generally. Following are areas where I’ve observed changes:  

  • Undoing Institutional Racism (UIR)/Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI): Staff are more involved in anti-racist work and community activities, and more trainings are now available for newly recruited employees.  
  • Leadership and leadership colleagues: I appreciate how HSD Director Tanya Kim supports the larger community’s anti-racist work. I also like how Director Tanya encourages her team to connect with and update other leaders, contractors, community members, and colleagues on progress and status.
  • Staff: A greater number of our colleagues are versed in RSJI language.
  • Funding: In my experience, HSD planners and G&C specialists have felt the pulse of different communities and advanced community needs to HSD leadership. 

What do you love about your job? 

I’m a people person, and I believe all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The City of Seattle promotes and fosters such values. I also appreciate the humanist characteristics shared by our HSD colleagues. I enjoy witnessing and supporting colleagues who share similar work culture and ethic.

I’m exposed to the most genius and creative minds the City of Seattle has to offer. As a G&C Specialist, I’m regularly surrounded by buzzing sounds from many work teams (like beehives) that always contribute their best thinking and actions. I work with highly intelligent people who can take on complex challenges, map resources, and identify team members with the skills, understanding, and resources needed to negotiate creative solutions.

How do you contribute to HSD’s overarching goals related to racial equity? 

It is not enough for me to say I’m not racist—I am anti-racist! I’m a Muslim Arab American person of color who has dealt with and continues to deal with many struggles. The City’s UIR/RSJI and HSD vision, mission, and values reflect my core values. 

Adam and family posing for a photo

I’ve been exposed to many different “diversity, equity and inclusion” trainings. I completed People’s Institute of Survival and Beyond and Undoing Institutional Racism trainings prior to joining the City. Due to my prior role with the UNDP, I have a global lens on human rights, humanity, race, and race relations. I bridge my global visions with my core values and the overarching goals of the Seattle Human Services Department.  

I’m grateful and fortunate to have been guided by diverse pillars of leadership on human rights, gender, race, and social justice. Important to note, I was recruited through El Centro de La Raza and most of my learning in Seattle was through our African American welcoming community.   

What motivates you or keeps you going? 

I read this question as “Other than the usual (spouse, children, pets, bills, work), what made you wake up today? What is your passion?” Doing and saying good helps me and our shared universe heal.   

What’s one piece of advice for HSD newcomers or recent graduates in your field?   

Adam riding a donkey.

You are about to embark on a rewarding journey, friend. Listen. You learn, you practice, and you should share. Make the most of your abilities. Focus on getting better at what you do. Read the Director’s Desk and your division director’s emails. Listen to and support your supervisor and manager. Focus on your assigned role. Try to attend all HSD meetings and workshops, especially our quarterly All Staff meetings, lunch and learns, meet and greets, etc. and get to know other HSD staff and their diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and values.

I highly recommend that you attend monthly Change Team meetings. Allow yourself to witness, listen, and share emotional vulnerability. Change starts within before elsewhere. RSJI change team members (City employees and or community partners) can and will be your forever loving and supportive family.