Valentine’s Day and Black History Month
by Angela Allen
Today is the first day of March which means February, the shortest month of the year is “finally” over. Those are not my sentiments, but sentiments of many people who actually hate the month of February. I personally can’t understand why anyone could hate February; it the shortest month of the year, yet it packs a powerful punch. Valentine’s Day, and Black History Month.
Throughout the month of February I have heard several people make the statement they hate February. Yesterday morning on the Today’s Morning Show one of commentaries went on and on about how glad she was that the month was over, which started me to think; why do so many people hate the shortest month of the year?
Could it possibly be because of Valentine’s Day? That could be the answer. There are several legends about how Valentine’s Day came to be but the story that continues to surface is about a Saint named Valentine who was thrown in jail for secretly performing marriages for young couples after marriages had been forbidden by the Emperor Claudius. Claudius’s reason for banning marriage, he believed that soldiers who had families did not perform well in battle. Claudius had Valentine thrown in prison. While waiting for his prison sentence, Valentine fell in love with a young girl. Claudius admired Valentines dignity and honor, but when Valentine refused to agree with Claudius about banning marriage, Claudius ordered Valentine to be executed. It is said that just before his execution, Valentine asked for a pen and paper from his jailor, and signed a farewell message to his love “From Your Valentine,” a phrase that lived ever after.
Although Valentine’s Day started out to be a time to share simple affections to those we love and care about, it has grown into a booming commercial business. A simple hand written note of affection has become a billion dollar enterprise. Gifts such as flowers, candy, cards, dinners, romantic getaways, movies, and jewelry have become the standard expectation for the day. This is where I think people may have developed a “hate” for this day of love.
Simple love has gone out the window and has been replaced with the expectation of “the gift.” Men/women feel pressured to spend money on expensive gifts, candy that will be gone by the end of the day, and flowers that will be dead in a matter of days. Coupled with that pressure, is the thought “will she/he like it.” Oh the pressure
As the flowers and candy began to arrive at various places of businesses, there is relief for you as your co-workers oooh and awww over your beautiful arrangement, while secretly they scream inside with fear they will be the only one who won’t receive anything. Oh the pressure.
And how about those who forget or they don’t have the money, or feel they haven’t been in the relationship long enough that warrants this type of gift. Or the ones that feel they don’t need a day to dictate how to show their affection. The ones who pretend they love the gift, but could think of many other things to spend the money on. And last but not least, those who are not in a relationship with someone who are forced to watch and listen whether in person or on television. Some don’t care and it doesn’t bother them to be alone on Valentines Day. But then there are those who are sadden by the thought of being alone.
Oh the pressure. No wonder so many people hate February. What happen to the heartfelt card.
And then there’s Black History month.
I’ve talked to people who think there doesn’t need to be a Black History month at all. This idea takes on two fold. Those who believe the contributions African Americans have made to this country are well and good, but why designate a month for it. And there are those who believe that Black History should be a part of the country’s education system every month, not just one month out of the year. I tend to agree with that, since the contributions made by African Americans spanned over years of times, it only seems right that this information should be woven into the documentation of history along with other historical events that are printed in books and taught in the classroom.
What I hear expressed the most about not liking the month of February is why “they” gave African Americans the shortest month of the year to celebrate. The first thing that should be clear is… “they” didn’t give us the shortest month.”We” or shall I say Carter G Woodson chose February for reasons of tradition and reform. Woodson selected February to encompass the birthdays of two great Americans who played a prominent role in shaping black history, namely Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, whose birthdays are the 12th and the 14th, respectively. More importantly, he chose them for reasons of tradition. Since Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, the black community, along with other Republicans, had been celebrating the fallen President’s birthday. And since the late 1890s, black communities across the country had been celebrating Douglass’. Well aware of the pre-existing celebrations, Woodson built Negro History Week around traditional days of commemorating the black past.
Woodson believed that publishing history would transform race relations by dispelling
the wide-spread falsehoods about the achievements of Africans and peoples of African descent. It was never his intention to have Negro History as a one week affair; he used Negro History Week to demonstrate what students should be learning all year. In 1976, fifty years after the first celebration, members of Woodson’s organized Association used its influence to institutionalize the shifts from a week to a month and from Negro history to Black history.
Over the years I have talked to many students about Black History and sadly enough at a time when African Americans are more mobile than they have ever been, our children seem to be learning less and less about their heritage. I remember listening to a group of students talking and one student asked another student if he was going to attend the Black History Program at the school and the young man replied, “naw man I ain’t going to that mess, that don’t have nothin to do wit me.” He probably didn’t have a clue that if it wasn’t for African Americans, he wouldn’t have been able to ride in the elevator he just got off of, or he wouldn’t have ice in the coke he was drinking, or he wouldn’t have the engine in his car, or the traffic light to control traffic, or the cell phone he was talking on and many other things that he takes for granted.
In all actuality we are the ones who put the stipulations on whether we have the shortest month to celebrate Black History. Unfortunately there are those who still don’t believe it is important enough to include it in the History books because we all know there is more history than the Civil Rights Movement which is mostly what you will find in history books. We have the opportunity to teach Black History in our communities, in our homes, and in our churches every month of the year…if we choose.
Next year, if you are blessed to see the shortest month of the year, whether you hate February because of Valentine’s day, or because you don’t think Black History month warrants recognition, or because you believe that it needs to be celebrated all year long… just give a thought to those you love, and also give a thought to all those who gave their lives so you could have a better way of life and remember… it’s the thought that counts….. February, the shortest month of the year, yet it packs a powerful punch.
Historical references: Wikipedia; Daryl Michael Scott for ASALH at www.asalh.org
Copyright 2011 – Angela Allen. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.