I remember my first time hearing ‘Otis’ by Kanye West and Jay-z and thinking ‘how arrogant’ but very honest that one line of the record was. The reality is that a lot of people in our community, rarely leave the immediate areas and states they are from, let alone the country. Many people can’t afford the luxury of traveling to different countries (like Kanye West) and sadly, they don’t have passports.
According to statistics, only 37 percent of Americans have a passport. In comparison, 71 percent of the UK population have a passport. Granted, their countries are closer together, but what does that say about us culturally when we don’t leave our bubble and experience new places.
Last year, A good friend of mine, Kenji Summers, began a mission to solve the crisis of passport ownership in the U.S by developing ‘The Passport Project’. The program creates awareness around the importance of obtaining a passport as well as awards grants to selected recipients to obtain one. This is a project I am really interested in becoming involved with, so I sat down with Kenji to ask a few questions about the project:
What is the overall mission of the passport project?
The mission of Passport Project is to get more young Americans their passports.
What influenced the creation of the project?
I listened to “Paris, Tokyo” Remix by Lupe Fiasco featuring Pharrell, Q-Tip, and Sarah Green in 2008 and was inspired to get my passport and to travel abroad. Upon traveling to Barcelona for my 23rd birthday in 2009 I was inspired and re-listened to the song that originally inspired me and focused on a line by Pharrell that went, “Fly to Paris, and end up in Tokyo. Lets start a coalition so even the broken can go.” After that it was done, I was going to find a way to start this project, and that I did. With my media planning background I did some research and discovered the abysmal percentage for passport ownership (between 20-30 percent of Americans own passports, the percent fluctuates depending on race/social-economics/education/region/etc.)
Why do you think there are an overwhelming number of minorities (especially African Americans) who don’t have a passport?
Many African-Americas do not have a nation to call home besides the U.S. As an African-American I love this country to death but it took visiting another land to figure out that I am really just a human and global citizen first and foremost. Secondly, money is a major issue, that and the fact that travel can be scary for many people. Recent movies like “Taken” and “Hostel” have not helped the cause. Ha.
How does someone go about applying for the passport grant and what will they receive if awarded?
The application process can be found on the Passport Project website (http://thepassportproject.com). We will be working with select influencers or just influential people between the ages of 18-29 to help us select recipients. Maybe we can have you (Necole) kick things off. [ <----I'm definitely IN!!!] The grant recipient will receive $135 (the application and execution fee for a U.S. passport for adults 16 and over). We are also in discussions with travel related companies to help with inclusive travel accommodations and gear.
Aside from the passport grant, what other methods are you implementing to encourage people to get passports?
We are growing a communal network of global travelers that have awakened to global citizenship. This in addition to a social enterprise, Passport Life will help us sustain interest, passion, and feed the global travel lifestyle we live.
Travel refreshes the mind, sparks creativity, and broadens perspectives. Millennials will run this world soon, let’s start preparing for it.
Find out more about Kenji’s Passport project through the following links:
Follow Kenji on twitter @kenjisummers
Are you a passport owner?