Guest Post by Andrés Henríquez (@AndresHenriquez)
What do an astronaut, actor, radio host, runway model, U.S. Senator, and Supreme Court Justice all have in common? They’re all accomplished Latino professionals who overcame barriers due to poverty, racism, and issues of identity to become thriving individuals and leaders. The theme that runs through all of their lives and stories is the importance of education and its critical place in ending the cycle of poverty.
The Latino List, a new HBO documentary that was privately screened at the Brooklyn Museum last night (and that airs on 9/28 on HBO Latino and 9/29 on HBO—check your listings), tells the stories of twenty-five influential Latinos from the worlds of sports, the arts, science, and business through striking photographs and edited monologues. We meet the debonair golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez , funny man John Leguziamo, America’s sweetheart Eva Longoria, unstoppable astronaut José Hernandez, gutsy author Sandra Cisneros, fiery educator Dr. Marta Morena Vega, and many others.
The interviews were done right around the time SB 1070 law was passed in Arizona (the controversial anti illegal immigration act) and the U.S. Census came out with the growth of the Hispanics and the potential of that market” said María Hinojosa (@Maria_Hinojosa), the journalist and Frontline and NPR reporter who conducted the interviews and co-authored the companion book. The creative mind behind The Latino List (@TheLatinoList) is Timothy Greenfield-Sanders who also shot the photographs for the book. Brown Beauty Production Executive Producers Catherine Pino, Ingrid Durán, and Susan González teamed up with the production company that did The Black List, Freemind Beauty, for guidance. Brown Beauty convinced the HBO executives that a continuation of the “List” theme with a Latino audience was relevant and a worthwhile investment.
The strong theme of education resonated with many who saw the opening. ACLU’s Anthony Romero commented that “the diversity of professions is amazing. Anyone will see this as inspirational.” As María Hinojosa underscored, “Latino students can finally see themselves in a positive light.”
The Latino List Project is currently seeking funding for a curricular wrap-around for K-12 schools. Explains executive producer Ingrid Durán, the idea is “for all of our kids to have an opportunity to see Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Senator Robert Menéndez–these are people they can aspire to.”
Many of the stories are joyful but also sad and even heartbreaking for the challenges the interviewees had to overcome. But the hope, resilience, and power of education will inspire both Latino children and Latinos of all ages and all walks of life who may be struggling to hold on and reach for the next rung for themselves and their families. This is a documentary that should be seen by all Americans who believe in the American Dream.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrés Henríquez is a program officer in the National Program of Carnegie Corporation of New York, where he leads the Corporation’s work on standards and assessments as well as the work in adolescent literacy. Prior to joining the Corporation, Henríquez served as the Assistant Director at the Center for Children and Technology (CCT) at the New York offices of the Education Development Center, Inc. He has also worked as a program officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington, as a senior research analyst at MTV Networks, a researcher at Sesame Workshop and taught for five years at a public elementary school in East Harlem. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Hamilton College and a M.Ed. from Teachers College, Columbia University.