It’s been 15 years in the making, but this week, right in the middle of Black History Month, television history was made.
On February 10, the Black News Channel took to the airwaves. Veteran journalist Fred Hickman and co-anchor Laverne McGee kicked off a new era in cable news, with a network that focuses exclusively on issues surrounding the nation's 47 million strong African American population.
Until now, no other news network in America has dedicated 24 hours a day, every day, to telling the stories that matter the most to the black community.
In Harlem, the cultural capital of black America, there was a celebration at the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network headquarters.
Sharpton introduced the new network to an audience that included government officials and social activists.
"I can say we need a 24-hour Black News Channel, and we need information, and we need real information, and the concept was one that intrigued me," he said.
Former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts is the Black News Channel's chairman and visionary. He said the new venture represents a platform for the community.
"It gives the African American community a voice," he said. "It gives them a venue that they can be a part of the national dialogue, and I think it helps to show to all of America who's interested in understanding the more comprehensive African American community."
John Marks III is the vice president of government and community affairs for the Black News Channel. He says growing the new network will require the viewers’ help.
"Now, please understand, we just birthed this baby," he said. "We've got to nurture this baby. We've got to see that it succeeds, and we can only do that if you help us, quite frankly."
Some of that help is already coming from Charter Communications, the parent company of Spectrum News NY1. Spectrum customers can see BNC on channel 232.
Charter Regional Vice President Camille Joseph-Goldman was instrumental in making that happen.
"Let's be honest. We want to hear the news oftentimes from folks who look like us, understand our issues and understand that we are not a monolith. Our voices are diverse, and there are many issues that have to be highlighted," she said.
Legendary civil rights activist Dr. Ben Chavis says the network is long overdue. He told the crowd, in order to succeed, they would have to think big.
"We need to be reaching 50 million African Americans every minute of every hour of every day," Chavis said. "But I want to say, the potential of the Black News Channel is not just for black folks. Because the truth of the matter is, when we hook this up, everybody's gonna be watching the Black News Channel."
Cheryl Wills, anchor of NY1's 10 p.m. news and host of the Sunday morning show "In Focus," talked about her pride in watching the Black News Channel come to life.
"That's why I'm very proud of the objective of the Black News Channel," she said. "Because it's not gonna have that 'if it bleeds, it leads' agenda. It's gonna cover the true diaspora of black life."
It's estimated that more than 100 million homes nationwide will have access to the Black News Channel, which is operating out of Tallahassee, Florida. But executives hope their digital reach will extend around the globe.