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J.C. Watts Launches the Black News Channel, but how Black is it?

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It’s monumental that for the first time in history, a cable news channel has launched solely focused on reaching Black people.  Regardless of your personal beliefs or politics, it is trivial and remedial to think that Black Americans are monolithic, but a network seemingly focused on telling our stories, speaking to our experience and channeling Black energy has never been more needed.  After following the news of the network launching for the last several months, seemingly in tandem with the launch of our own (non-affiliated) network, I decided to take a deeper look into the launch and who was behind it.

On the surface, the Black News Channel (BNC) looks to be a welcome addition and needed change to the cable news landscape, which was initially spearheaded by Ted Turner in 1980 with the creation of CNN.  Today, Fox News leads the industry with viewership that topples any competitor.  While opinion journalists have become the face of the Fox News Network, it’s often criticized for it’s right-leaning rhetoric and alternative facts presented as factual news by it’s hosts.  Until 2017, the network even used the motto ‘Fair and Balanced’, which was likely dropped due to the staunch support of Donald Trump.  Noting the statistics, reach and success of Fox News is important, because culturally, it’s never connected with Black viewers.  Enter Black News Channel.

The founder of BNC, J.C. Watts, is a former Canadian Football League player and Republican Congressman.  Fox News reports that Watts has been working on the channel for over a decade and has even attempted two other false starts (Nov 15th 2019 and January 6th 2020).  In an interview with Fox News, Watts said “I have traveled around the country participating in interviews, serving on panel discussions, and sharing BNC’s mission and commitment to telling a more complete story of the African American community.  There is growing interest and anticipation about the Black News Channel, as well as a palpable level of excitement about our launch.”  I believe this is true.  The BNC website says, ‘Black News Channel will offer original programming “created by people of color for people of color.”‘  Initially, the channel will be available to nearly 100 million homes through Spectrum, Xfnity X1 and Dish, with plans to add Sling, Vizio Smart TVS, Xumo and Roku.  Comcast and Dish describe their offering of BNC as a “subscription video-on-demand service.”  Sounds exhilarating.

Digging a little deeper, there were a few things that raised my left eyebrow-then, my right one.  Who else is leading this network? Is this the answer we’ve been looking for, after BET, the ‘premiere’ network for Black people has been hijacked by “Martin” repeats and every “Madea” movie known to man?  Where has our collective voice been in the newsphere?  I’ve had this conversation many times within my circle and hoped that I’d find solace with BNC.  I’m not so sure.

SOURCE: blacknewschannel.com Founders and Management Page

While I have no issues with white men in senior or key leadership positions, mostly because it’s been the norm since the inception of this nation, I have serious questions about launching anything Black in the honorable year of our Lord 2020 with white people in the most senior roles.  While there are sprinkles of Black male faces in the senior leadership team, who wouldn’t question a Black republican co-founder and two white males at the helm of a new network poised and positioned to tell the “true Black story?”  Bob Brillante, CEO and co-founder, is a media veteran from Florida who partnered with Watts to create this venture.  The Chief Operating Officer, Jim Zerwekh, is also a media veteran with over 25 years of industry experience.

I am a realist.  When launching a new venture of this magnitude, I imagine you’d be looking for the best, regardless of skin color or political affiliation.  In that same vein of realism, in such a divided time, when creating a venture targeted at a specific group of people, that have not only been marginalized by a nation but often disparaged and disrespected in media coverage, how important are optics?  I’ve shared news of this network many times, prior to it’s launch, with my circles, both personal and professional.  Each time, I watched eyes illuminate with hope and excitement, until I subsequently shared the leadership team.

Have we been had?  Was no one else available? Where are the Black people and why are we seemingly invisible?

“The launch of Black News Channel will be not only historic, but also transformational,” CEO and co-founder Bob Brillante said. “We will shed more light on the stories that demonstrate our commonality, rather than those that highlight our differences.”

It’s fair to say that I am not even on the fence about my feelings. I know that after peeling back just the first layer, I don’t trust this.  I could also be wrong.  There is an abundance of Black talent and skill within the Black community that could’ve aided this venture, if the point of it was to truly inform and uplift.  Any wise Black advisor would’ve made it clear to the board or leadership that optics matter.  Being Black and proud is not divisive, it’s necessary.  It is in fact, very white, to focus on our ‘commonality’ while so many blatant inequalities have plagued our people for centuries.  Time will tell what this truly is…

BNC’s programming lineup includes a weekly news show with 60 Minutes alum Byron Pitts, sports shows focused on basketball and combat sports, and a weekly focus on historically black colleges and universities.

Black News Alerts is solely owned and operated by UnmutedCo. and has no affiliation with the Black News Channel.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black News Alerts and the host of Unmuted Nation on BossFM. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

Headlines

Manhattan’s Vessel Closes Indefinitely Due to String of Suicides

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A view of the Vessel at Hudson Yards, New York’s Newest Neighborhood, Official Opening Event on March 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Related)

Administrators of a towering New York City tourist attraction closed the structure until further notice this week following various suicides at the site

What We Know:

  • The Vessel, the intriguing spiraling staircase at Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s Far West Side, was closed to guests on Tuesday, one day after a 21-year-old man jumped to his death, the third suicide in less than a year.
  • The chairman of the local community board, Lowell Kern, said in an interview on Tuesday that a Related Companies spokesperson had called him shortly after the suicide on Monday and had stated the Vessel would remain closed “until further notice”. As of Wednesday night, the structure is listed as “currently closed” on its website. Kern also stated the developer had indicated that it would display the precautionary steps it had designed to take to the board before reopening the structure to guests.
  • The closing occurred as the police identified the man who killed himself on Monday morning as Franklin Washington of San Antonio. His death comes weeks after a 24-year-old Brooklyn woman took her own life by jumping from the Vessel on Dec. 21.
  • Last February, a 19-year-old New Jersey man also jumped from the Vessel, the first suicide at the location, with witnesses describing hearing screaming as observers realized what had happened.
  • Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio created the Vessel. The creators describe the Vessel as an interactive artwork with 154 intertwined flights of stairs, almost 2,500 individual steps, and 80 landings. Visitors are prompted to climb it to experience New York and the Hudson River’s extensive views.
  • Kern expressed in a letter that he understood there was skepticism in modifying what is deemed a work of art, but that should not be a preference now. “After three suicides, at what point does the artistic vision take a back seat to safety?”
  • In the New York area, the George Washington Bridge has typically attracted more suicide attempts than other bridges or sites. From 2015 to 2017, there were 15 suicides a year at the bridge. In 2017, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey moved to address the problem by installing an 11-foot-high fence that connected to a canopy of netting over a pedestrian walkway.

If you or someone you know are having suicidal thoughts, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

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Crime

Riot Coverage: Banks Drop Trump, FBI has received over 70,000 tips, Twitter closes over 70,000 accounts

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One week following the violent ambush by pro-Trump rioters at the U.S. Capitol, many actions against the President and his supporters have been taken by Trump’s banks, the FBI, and social media companies.

What We Know:

  • According to Bloomberg, tensions between Trump and the financial industry began late Monday when Deutsche Bank AG decided to cut ties with the President and his family as they waited for him to pay off roughly $300 million in loans in the upcoming years News.
  • This was the first bank to remove Trump as a client, quickly followed by the Manhattan-based Signature Bank, which announced it’s closing Trump accounts holding about $5.3 million. The following day, Professional Bank, which once allowed the President an $11 million mortgage, announced it would cut business with the Trump Organization and “will be winding down the relationship effective immediately.”
  • Additionally, on Monday, the FBI announced that it had received more than 70,000 tips and other information as it seeks to arrest those who participated in the violent ambush at the U.S. Capitol last week. The agency claims to have received tips, including photos and videos. They also announced that photos had been released of the individual(s) responsible for placing suspected pipe bombs around D.C. and are even offering a $50,000 reward for their identification.
  • NBC News reports that more than 90 arrests of people allegedly connected to Wednesday’s events in the capital had been made as of Sunday.
  • On the same Monday, Trump’s supporters and culprits of the Capitol attack were banned from Twitter, the social media giant confirmed in a blog post. Over 70,000 accounts that share content concerning the QAnon conspiracy theory were banned from the site last week, last week “to protect the conversation on our service from attempts to incite violence, organize attacks, and share deliberately misleading information about the election outcome.”
  • Aside from permanently suspending the President’s own account, Twitter also permanently suspended accounts of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell and former 8kun administrator Ron Watkins.

Consequences from the Capitol riots have seemed to damage Trump’s presidency and those affiliated with him in his final days as President. Days which may contain even harsher punishments as the House prepares to impeach.

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Rep. Clyburn Wants to Make ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ A National Hymn

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Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. listens to Joe Biden speak at a primary night election rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP file

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., desires the song known as the Black national anthem acknowledged as a national hymn.

What We Know:

  • Clyburn currently is the third-highest Democrat in the House, and its highest-ranking Black member intends to submit a proposition to promote Lift Every Voice and Sing at the same level with the national anthem as quick as this week to bring the country together and heal with a song “everybody can identify with,” he tweeted.

  • He stated the change would say to Black people, “you aren’t singing a different national anthem, you are vocalizing the country’s national hymn,” he informed USA Today. According to USA Today, Clyburn said that the song is an essential part of the American experience in a letter to colleagues. He wishes for “extensive” bipartisan support for his proposition in both chambers.
  • Clyburn further said he’s wanted to begin this initiative for decades and asked his team to start the paperwork last month. The current political environment initially, the summer’s shootings and protests, especially after the Capitol’s riots last week — inspired him to revisit the proposal, he said.
  • Lift Every Voice and Sing surfaced as Black Americans faced the threat of lynchings and the actualities of segregation and discrimination. Weldon Johnson, leader of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), composed it as a poem in 1899 before his brother John Rosamond Johnson wrote an instrumental adaptation for it, making it a hymn in honor of the Black freedom fights and struggles, to celebrate decades of overcoming and wish for a more enjoyable future.

“Lift ev’ry voice and sing, ‘Til earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; Let our rejoicing rise High as the list’ning skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, Let us march on ’til victory is won”. The lyrics to “Lift Every Vocie and Sing”

  • This season, the NFL interpreted both “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Week 1 games.

Clyburn states making it a national hymn could bring the country together, bringing a change and an act of healing. Everybody can identify with that song without taking away from “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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