We Are America

Native born and immigrant children tell us what our country means to them.

We Are America is a look in photographs with text - at the diversity of peoples and the values (democracy, freedom, diversity, opportunity) that define the American dream.

• We Are America is a series of photographs of children of all ethnicities holding or wearing flags and other patriotic symbols. 

• We Are America is statements by school children (ages 5-12) at Clinton Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska on what America means to them.

Our country is still a beacon to the world. Immigration is on the front pages. This project looks to the future — to the new people who are re-energizing and re-defining our core values. The idea is to let the images and words create an elegant, yet simple statement of who we are. While that essence is changing, our children’s dreams of a better future remain the same.

The Project
Nebraska. Lincoln, at the center of the Midwest, is the essence of American values; but Lincoln is also a resettlement community, a community with many diverse peoples and cultures. Lincoln’s population includes groups from Vietnam, Russia, Kurdistan, Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Korea, Mexico, and Central America, in addition to Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and European Americans.

During the fall of 2003, students at Clinton Elementary School in Lincoln, wrote essays about what America meant to them.The students went through three or four drafts of their essays. In the spring of 2004, I set up a studio in the school and photographed the students who had written the best essays. The idea was to have the students wear patriotic symbols that represented the essence of their statement. Faculty and students in the theater department of the Nebraska Wesleyan University prepared the the students (face painting, etc) for the photo shoot.

The Lincoln Action Project, a non-profit, secured the for the school and university partner, as well as, helped me raise funds for the project.

© 2017 Stephen Shames / POLARIS PORTFOLIO / STEVEN KASHER GALLERY