Twin Miami Sound Machines Drive HBO's Latino List

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Photos courtesy of Brown Beauty Productions/HBO
Pitbull (right) and photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders talk angles during their Latino List photo shoot.
Rocks Off is on the phone with perhaps one of the great photographers of this era, critically acclaimed and award-winning photojournalist Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. His brainchild, The Black List - a collection of intimate, up-close photos of the great black leaders and personalities of our time - came to life on HBO a few years ago when the photo subjects told heartfelt stories about the struggles and triumphs of being black in America. 

The Black List portrait exhibition premiered in July 2008 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Wu-Tang Clan mastermind/producer RZA, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Russell Simmons and Slash from Guns N' Roses were all part of the first or second volumes of The Black List in the portrait and film versions.  

It occurred to us after our chat that as much as we grew up alongside blacks and in black communities, and as much as we are immersed in the hip-hop pioneered and dominated by black artists, as a contributing writer to this music blog, we still learned something - many things - about being black in America.

We heard from that community's leaders, who stepped out of their seemingly untouchable personas and became just people for a minute, through an outpouring of simple yet powerful, personal stories that left imprints on our psyche when thinking about the black community.  

"My God, what something like this could do for my community," we thought to ourselves. 

"Community" as in Latinos in America, an ethnicity of ethnicities whose letters we cringe to spell out in our writings to mainstream audiences. In the media, Latino has become synonymous with "illegals," "drug violence," "job taking," etc.

With Hispanic Heritage Month in full swing, we find an irony in being asked to be proud of something that's endured so much hate. That doesn't stop us from being proud, but it's an important point.

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The Latino List Creative Team (L-R): Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Catherine Pino, Maria Hinojosa, Tommy Walker, Ingrid Duran, Susan Gonzales
That's what kind of makes this story so compelling. Greenfield-Sanders is telling us that it was almost two years ago - when the political environment over immigration was equally, if not more, heated - that Washington, D.C. issues-advocacy gurus Ingrid Duran and Catherine Pino, approached him about creating something special to try and counteract the negative attention around Latinos in America.

They wanted to create their own list. The Latino List

"It was during that whole immigration issue in Arizona," says Pino about when the idea of The Latino List really began to gain steam, amidst the push by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to pass SB 1040. "We wanted to find a way to portray Latinos' American patriotism in this country." 

Duran and Pino, who run their own firm, D&P Creative Strategies, and started their own production company, Brown Beauty Productions, along with Facebook executive Susan Gonzales, would look to Pitbull and Emilio, Gloria Estefan and many other influential Latinos to help convey that patriotism.

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