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The Passport Project

The Passport Project

You ain’t ‘customed to going through Customs, you ain’t been nowhere, huh? – Kanye West

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?

  • 4 Aug ’11

    Thats so nice of you to put that information up. It is so important to have one of them! I’ve had one since i was 14 my first trip out of the country was to South Africa! I loved every minute of it, then to London, and this year I went to Italy! Next year it’s France with the family! One thing about passports you dont have to do change of address and what not! Unlike an ID. I gained so much inspiration while in Rome for that week! It was so good to emerse myself in the culture, and I went alone and stayed with some friends from home, but most of the time i ventured out on my own with little Italian. I knew enough to get around! by the end of the week I knew how to get around! So fun, anyway i’m rambling! People get your passports! Aim bigger and better! There is a blogger that went around traveling too, he wanted to bring awareness to blacks being afraid to travel.

  • Brianna
    5 Aug ’11

    Hi Necole! I am 15 years old and my family I just got our passports like last week. We got our passports too late being that I go back to school Aug. 8th. But we are now planing a Christmas “getaway” to Canada or Switzerland for skiing! The only problem seems to be time management with my sister on her Junior year of college and my parents busy work schedule. I checked out The Passport Project in hopes it would be like a “club/ travel group” but I was slightly disappointed seems like a great cause though! Just seems to me I’ve got my passport to be disappointed by another clash of schedules.

  • Naj
    5 Aug ’11

    I couldn’t have found this article at a better time! As a child I always wanted to travel no matter how terrified I was. As African Americans I feel like it would such an awesome experience to expose to some kind of culture. I’m down for this passport project!

  • 5 Aug ’11

    I’m from London (UK) and honestly I find the fact that such a low number of people in the US don’t have passports and don’t find a reason to travel out of their own country, nevertheless their own state. Do you think that this low number of passport users is related to the fact that the US is so big in size when compared to that of the UK and I’m guessing this, but that it is easier for an American to simply visit another US state than go abroad??

  • 5 Aug ’11

    Awesome. So who needs a passport?

  • tynniayia
    5 Aug ’11

    this is so true necole! keep the positivity and information coming! i havent been out of the country yet. this is just another kick in the back. thanks necole!

  • Ashley
    5 Aug ’11

    I feel that Europeans can travel country to country easier than Americans because we are separated between two oceans. Europeans can hop on a train and go from Spain to Italy in hours. But to get from the US to Italy will take a lot more time and money and with the economy it makes it even harder. I just recently received my passport before the summer because I travel to my #1 spot Japan for study abroad. Best time of my life. I feel college students should all try study abroad its a great way to travel.

  • 5 Aug ’11


    Thank you so much for posting this! I posted a blog about this same thing not too long ago: http://youboredbish.com/2011/07/02/no-passport-thats-a-problem/. It’s amazing how many young people STILL don’t have the necessary equipment to travel…i.e a passport! I’m absolutely lovin’ the Passport Project! I will definitely spread the word and stay connected with Mr. Summers!

  • 5 Aug ’11

    I’ve had a passport since I was a child. My family is from Trinidad, but my mom was very supportive with me traveling abroad and sent me on a school trip when I was 12 to Australia and New Zealand. I’m very behind with travel now though—I want to go to Europe, Africa, and South America, etc.

    Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. I remember looking to take one of those educational tours when I was thinking about going to London, Paris, and Rome and tickets were less than $2,000 including flight, hotel, and tour fees. Plus a lot of credit unions and banks offer vacation clubs where you can put small amounts of money away each pay check to go towards a vacation. You can also just open a savings account and be disciplined to not touch it. I’m sure many of us can find $1500-2000 to save each year that would typically be wasted on nonsense…lol.

  • Rachael
    5 Aug ’11

    I need a passport, Kenji! I’ve always wanted to travel but haven’t been permitted to doing so. I guess this is perfect timing!

  • MB
    5 Aug ’11

    I’ve had a passport since I was three years old (My parents are from Jamaica so I’ve traveled there regularly). It was my first and only experience out of the country but I plan to travel to many other places its just a matter of accommodations and getting the money right. I want to go to England next since I have plenty of family I haven’t met yet there.

  • Jay
    5 Aug ’11

    Thanks for posting this Necole, this is a good project! I’ve had a passport since I was 12, I lived in Japan for 10 months, and went to London and Paris my sophomore year in college. I believe that Americans should do more international traveling, but I think the cost and the fear stop people, especially African Americans. Also, I agreed with Epiphannie A. and Ashley, I think the reason a higher percentage of Europeans have passports compared to Americans is the ease. Europeans travelling country to country is like Americans traveling state to state. But I think Americans should travel more in general, whether its to other states or other countries. And not just to the tourist-y places like Cancun! LOL

  • Shay
    5 Aug ’11

    Wow, thanks Necole! I’m definitely going to look into it. I’m 20 and I’ve only been to Mexico, BUT I have been to many, many states. Being a college student, I never wanted to drop the money to get a passport if I couldn’t even afford to go. But now that internship opportunities are brewing, I need to look into it.

    Thank you to Kenji and The Passport Project Team!

  • 5 Aug ’11

    Well I’m a 31 year old african american and I had never thought of travelling out of the country until a few yrs ago. My ex boyfriend talked me into grabbing a passport and I’ve been a travelling addict ever since. I’ve been to Paris, london, as well as a few of the carribean islands where such books aren’t needed. International travelling is such an eye opener especially as an black american and I wish People would take more advantage of. It! We can go to several places without the need of a visa even, as well. Just be cautious in your trips and how you prepare and don’t let the haters stop you from living Life!! We all only live once…..Next on my list: ghana, and I can’t wait!

  • Tauheedah
    5 Aug ’11

    Thanks Necole for posting! I just pulled mines out of a drawer and dust it off. I need to plan another trip that’s going to require me to use it again. Seriously! It’s been over three years. Having the ability to leave your own country to experience others is the epitome of traveling. It gets no better.

  • 5 Aug ’11

    Such great discourse. I hope to continue this conversation (and future action) with you all, either one on one or in groups. Necole has been so awesome and I can not wait to work with her closer on this project, especially after seeing her reader’s interest. Cheers.

  • Daisy
    12 Aug ’11

    #teamtravel This is a great idea/project

  • 19 Dec ’11

    I can’t believe it! I was literally sitting here writing plans for something exactly like this when I just wanted to google the number of of African-Americans with passports and found this article. Well done.

    Now all I have to do is go to Kenji’s website and see what I can do to spread the idea of passport ownership and international travel. Thanks.

  • Ms Banks
    18 Nov ’16

    Hello. Is your passport project still going?

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