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What Is First Person American?

"First Person American focuses on stories of modern immigrants in the US, and explore what it means to be American through the lens of the immigrant in an expressive, personal and narrative style. "

Welcome to the First Person American Beta site. First Person American is an initiative that aims to change the public’s perception of immigrants and to interject a new voice through deep and poignant portraits of people who immigrated to America. Our mission is to have a transformative effect on individual immigrant and non-immigrant lives and communities.

The name “First Person American” is a nod to the narrative mode of each video—each participant speaking of how living in the US influenced his or her “American” identity. The mission is to create a communal experience of America’s diversity.

Why This Matters

According to the Center of Immigration Studies, there are nearly 40 million immigrants living in the United States—13% of the total population. Last year alone, one million immigrants took the Oath and became American citizens.

Virtually all American-born citizens have ancestors who came to this country from abroad. Do you have to be born here to count as a true American? First Person American explores this question through an intimate look at the lives of people who immigrated to America.

Promotional Video: What's Your Story?

A 30-second clip about First Person American and our new experience in personal storytelling.

First Person American Promo Video from First Person American on Vimeo.

Our Partner

First Person American partnered with the The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
Through personal stories of today's immigrants, this initiative supports heritage preservation efforts, allows people to further appreciate their past and ancestors who brought them to America, and serves as the only place in the United States where all immigrants can find their story.

About The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit organization founded in 1982 to raise funds for and oversee the historic restorations of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The Foundation created the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, dedicated to educating visitors about the immigrant experience and preserving the memory of the immigrants who passed through Ellis Island.

Our Funders

First Person American is possible with generous support from the Adobe Foundation/World Studio and Sappi Paper Ideas That Matter. We are incredibly grateful to our funders.

About Ideas that Matter
Since its inception, the program has funded more than 170 campaigns in North America, and awarded more than $7 million in grants worldwide. Ideas that Matter attracts applications from designers throughout the world. The grants will be used to develop campaigns for non-profit organizations backing social, cultural, health, and human rights efforts, and environmental conservation work.

About Design Ignites Change
Design Ignites Change is a collaboration between the Adobe Foundation and Worldstudio that supports designers and architects who want to make a difference.

About the Founder

First Person American was founded by Irina Lee in 2009. As an immigrant who grew up with the duality of becoming American while maintaining her own cultural identity, Irina created First Person American to allow other immigrants to reflect on their process and degree of assimilation, helping them bridge the division between old and new cultures. First Person American stems from her passion and commitment for social activism and investigating change.

Get in touch

Contact us for information about the project, questions, participating, or anything else.
We'll get back to you pronto!

hello (at) firstpersonamerican.org


Focus on Welcoming
Print Magazine’s The Daily Heller
May 25, 2011

Inside Shelbyville Multimedia's Ambitious Immigration Project
PBS Idea Lab
March 21, 2011

In the Classroom, Students Use Design to Solve Real-World Problems
GOOD Magazine
February 11, 2011

Design Ignites Change 2010 Cycle 2 Award Winners
Design Ignites Change
February 8, 2011

Sappi Fine Paper North America Announces Grant Recipients for the 11th Annual Ideas that Matter Program
Sappi Fine Paper North America News
September 9, 2010

First Person Reading Room

We recommend these books and blogs:

One Big Table
by Molly O'Neill
Part cookbook, part ethnography and cultural history, this volume is heartwarming.... more

Happy Birthday or Whatever
by Annie Choi
Funny and moving account of growing up in a family of Korean immigrants... more

Strength in What Remains
by Tracy Kidder
A true story of Deogratias' escape to America from the genocies in Burundi in 1994.... more

Micky's Taiwanese Recipes
Micky shares her easy-to-follow authentic Taiwanese recipes.... more

Sunday Sauce
A young, Italian-American couple devoted to Italian cooking.... more