Tag Archives: African American

Black News Channel’s Chairman J.C. Watts Discusses BNC’s Deep HBCU Ties & FAMU Partnership


In a recent interview with Bold TV, Chairman of Black News Channel, J.C. Watts, discusses his plans for the coming launch of the new television channel that seeks to focus on a myriad of topics from culture, religion, politics, economics, and more that cover the diverse range of African America’s views on topics. Chairman Watts emphasizes that this will be a channel for African Americans and by African Americans. Just how far that is to go though we will discuss later on in the article.

Starting at the 8:50 mark in the video, Chairman Watts discusses with Ms. Sheffield, Founder of Bold TV, the important relationship that Black News Channel will seek to build with HBCUs and just how much content there is available within those institutions alone. A statement that should be not underappreciated given that BNC is going to attempt to be a 24/7 news channel. While the plan a few years ago was for BCN to be housed on the campus of Florida A&M University, the company has shifted its focus on making the FAMU School of Journalism a target school for BCN with internships, curriculum engagement, and employment opportunities upon graduation.

The company features a host of Rattler alumnae. Mr. Amir Windom, a rising star in media circles will be the Director of Creative Services. It also features Ms. Georgia Dawkins, who will serve as Director of HBCU Services. Lastly, the Director of Corporate Business Development is Ms. Erika Littles.

Ms. Sheffield brings up just some of the larger outlets in the landscape that currently stands in African American targeted media like The Root, Black Entertainment Television, NBC Black, OWN, TV One, and questions aloud where BCN will find its place among the field.

However, a point that was not brought up and should always be at the forefront of our minds when new products are launched that target African America is who actually is profiting from our eyeballs. We are often providing the labor and the viewership in many instances while reaping none of the economic rewards that comes with ownership and ultimately the control of the narrative. BET is owned by Viacom, NBC is owned by Comcast, The Root is owned by Univision, which itself is owned by very Eurocentric private equity firms, and even OWN, the channel beloved by Oprah followers, is majority owned by Discovery Communications. On the website for Black News Channel, while Chairman J.C. Watts is listed as a co-founder, the other co-founder is Bob Brillante. What is the potential ownership split? There are seven other owner/investors listed on the company’s website, but what each individuals stake is remains unclear. As a private company, they are certainly not required by any means to disclose this information, but it would certainly go a long way to endorsing just how much of an African American “owned” media asset this actually is.

There is a harsh reality that the majority of sizeable media assets focusing on African Americans is not in the ownership hands of African Americans. The Washington Post reported that in 2013, “African American ownership remains particularly low, hovering at less than one percent of all television properties, and less than 2 percent of radio.” This is certainly not to say that Black News Channel will not have an impact. It is projected to employ almost 100 people, many of them being HBCU alumni and students as we have already seen in key positions, but we must push the envelope further. We need more investment in publications that are owned by our community like HBCU Digest, Atlanta Black Star, HBCU Gameday and many others.  Traditional media is not dying, it is evolving (and consolidating into the hands of a few) and has already done so in major ways. Unfortunately, we are often lacking the resources to keep up despite our ingenuity.

We appreciate that the Black News Channel makes it a point to be transparent about their ownership, hope that they will be an inclusive platform to smaller African American owned publications looking to establish themselves, and definitely continue to integrate itself within the many schools of journalism that HBCUs have and the richness that those assets can bring to the table.

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The 2016-2017 HBCU Graduate Student Loan Report


There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt. – P.T. Barnum

The most recent study on HBCU student loan debt by HBCU Money shows a continued trend in this our third installment of tracking the crisis at our nation’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities. Whatever the nation thinks of the overall student loan crisis, it pales in comparison to what is happening at HBCUs. America’s student loan flu is African America’s student loan pneumonia with no insurance.

To put it mildly, the HBCU student loan crisis continues to be complicated. Overall, less HBCU students are graduating with debt as a percentage, which is a positive thing. Although the cause of why that number continues to drop is very unclear. The other piece of the puzzle though is the amount of student loan debt HBCU students are graduating with is skyrocketing. In the five years since our original report, the median student loan debt for an HBCU graduate is up twenty percent. Over that same period, median student loan debt for those graduating from a Top 50 endowed college or university is up only six percent.

The results are paired against America’s 50 largest universities by endowment which varied by geography, public and private status, and school size similar to that of HBCUs. The Project on Student Debt by The Institute for College Access and Success reports that in America overall, “New data show that the average student debt for college graduates continues to climb but at a slower pace, according to a report released by the Institute for College Access & Success. Nationally, about two in three (65 percent) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2017 had student loan debt. These borrowers owed an average of $28,650, 1 percent higher than the 2016 average.”

Numbers in parentheses shows the comparative results from the universities of the 50 largest endowments:

Median Debt of an HBCU Graduate – $34,131 ($24,237)

Proportion of HBCU Graduates with debt – 86% (40%)

Nonfederal debt, % of total debt of graduates – 4% (26%)

Pell Grant Recipients  – 71% (15%)

Statistics show that HBCU graduates are almost 32 percent more likely to graduate with debt than the national average, this number is up from 28 percent a few years ago. As the nation continues to increase the percentage of graduates with debt, HBCUs are actually decreasing its percentage is a canary in the coal mine. Again, it is unclear what is causing the drop. HBCU graduates are an astonishing 115 percent more likely to graduate with debt than those graduating from a Top 50 endowed college or university, by far the worst number in our report’s history with the previous being 96 percent more likely three years ago and 93 percent more likely five years ago. A disturbing trend upwards if there ever was one. The percentage of HBCU graduates finishing with debt is down over four percent in the past five years, while Top 50 endowed college or university graduates have seen the percentage of graduates graduating with debt down over eleven percent.

In terms of the debt itself, as mentioned the median student loan debt is up over twenty percent since our inaugural report five years ago. Disparagingly, student loan debt for HBCU graduates is more than 40 percent greater than Top 50 endowed college and university graduates. This creates a number of socieoeconomic issues  for HBCUs themselves and for the graduates they hope will be able to benefit from education’s upward mobility in wealth accumulation.

Median Total Cost of Attendance – $22,866 ($66,623)

The cost of attending an HBCU should be an advantage for African Americans, but poor endowments and lack of familial wealth continue to negate the one primary advantage HBCUs have, cost. Despite costing almost three times more over a four year period, Top 50 endowed colleges and universities are managing to graduate those who finish with debt at about 9 percent of the total cost of attendance over that four year period. In contrast, for HBCU graduates, they are finishing with 37 percent of the total cost of attendance over the same period.

Three years ago in our second report we said this and it remains true here in our third report as well, “Unfortunately, HBCUs are caught between a rock and hard place in needing to desperately raise tuition to generate more revenue because of weak endowments, but doing so increases an already over-sized burden on their graduates long-term and making it even less likely they will become the donors that the institutions desperately need. It has become a vicious cycle and with so much of African America and America invested in the demise of HBCUs that it seems only a miracle will keep us from perishing.” Without transformative donations of the eight and nine figure variety on a more consistent basis, then it is hard to see the student loan debt load decreasing or even plateauing at this point. A somber reality in a world where education is becoming increasingly vital for upward mobility for individuals, families, and communities.

An Untapped Opportunity: African American Women’s Absence In The Craft Beer Industry


By Della Fain

There was a time when you thought of beer, it was a beverage to accompany you to picnics and ballparks. No one was doing anything innovative or creative with beer. Fast forward to now and crafted beer makes up 98 percent of all breweries in the U.S. This in no small part is due to the support of craft beer lovers. But who are these craft beer lovers?

In an industry that nets 107.6 billion dollars annually a 2014 survey conducted by Neilsen found that African Americans rank a minute 3.7 percent of all craft beer. And of that 3.7 percent, how many are Black women? To quote 702’s song “Where my girls at?” Now do not get me wrong, we are not non- existent and there are Black women in the industry as brewers, bloggers, owners, culture and lifestyle branders, but the numbers are minute. With society and lifestyle brands like Dope & Dank co-founded by a Black woman Beny Ashburn, who advocates diversity in the dank world of craft beer.

But in a decade of sustained growth, the craft industry has largely ignored minorities and in the past, diversity meant white women. And even today it only in a small part means men of color. So, where do we (African American women) fit in?

In 2017, Craftbeer.com listed 8 women in craft beer who are making a mark, and none were Black. No mention of Celeste Beatty, founder of The Harlem Brewing Company, or the fact that her beers are available in 39 Wal-marts across New York. In April of this year The Brewers Association, an organization dedicated to small and independent American brewers, named a Black woman J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham their first diversity ambassador. I tried unsuccessfully to interview Dr. Beckham about what a diversity ambassador does. Hopefully future dialogue about what diversity means in craft beer and what’s missing.

While recently watching a video of Alisa Bowens-Mercado the first African American woman brewing beer in Connecticut canning her own unfiltered lager named Rhythm I noticed she was the only woman of color present in the video. She is quoted as saying she would like to “see more women in the industry, more brewing, more women canning.”

Since craft beer has mainly been a white man’s game and only recently included men of color and even more recently white women, black women have a few hurdles to leap before we can be acknowledged and respected. The predominately boys club has also made it clear that they are not interested in our taste or opinions on beer unless a pair of breasts accompany it. So first we have to overcome sexism seals then race.

A lot of breweries do not even consider African American women as their consumer because Black women are not being seen drinking or purchasing craft beer. When I am in line for a can release I’m one of few women and the only Black woman in line. We do not feel included so we do not show our love for it and our opinion isn’t largely sought after because we aren’t present.

And finally, an issue I’ve seen with my growing presence on social media is lack of support to one another. I see our white counterparts trade, share, follow, repost and support one another on their craft beer journeys, but a huge lack of support amongst each other. Women are often pitted against each other in every facet and culture of life and the craft beer community is no different. I especially see it among black women. I say this having experienced more support, follows, shares, trades and paid appearances through white men. I see black men get together and have a guys weekend of comradery, fellowship and mutual love of craft beer. I know there are Black women who love craft beer, so how about we show the industry what we have to offer it. Cheers Black Women and if you see me, next rounds on me.

Della Fain is an Chitown native Arizona resident. Married mother of 3. She’s also a contributor to Bourbon Zeppelin giving bourbon barrel aged beer reviews. You can follow her on Instagram at @sixfeetofdynamite. 

The Vernon Johns Story: Money Is Power Scene


In the Vernon Johns story, this powerful scene shows Reverend Johns trying to explain to his congregation the economic power they can wield in building a strong and vibrant community if they build and own their own institutions. A sentiment that would later be echoed by Martin Luther King, Jr. as he directed African American to move its money into African American owned banks. He also points out the disdain that many communities had (and continue) to have for African Americans, but have no disdain in taking our money. Can we become a self-sufficient people? Just how many things can we not purchase from an African American (Diaspora) company? The scene is powerful and the message still rings as true today as it did then.

HBCU Money™ Business Book Feature – Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools


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Fifteen-year-old Diamond stopped going to school the day she was expelled for lashing out at peers who constantly harassed and teased her for something everyone on the staff had missed: she was being trafficked for sex. After months on the run, she was arrested and sent to a detention center for violating a court order to attend school.

Just 16 percent of female students, Black girls make up more than one-third of all girls with a school-related arrest. The first trade book to tell these untold stories, Pushout exposes a world of confined potential and supports the growing movement to address the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe futures.

For four years Monique W. Morris, author of Black Stats, chronicled the experiences of black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged—by teachers, administrators, and the justice system—and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish. Morris shows how, despite obstacles, stigmas, stereotypes, and despair, black girls still find ways to breathe remarkable dignity into their lives in classrooms, juvenile facilities, and beyond.