In a Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare wrote that “the course of true love never did run smooth.”
Commitment, understanding and patience are principal requirements in keeping relationships afloat, thriving and mutually beneficial. Yesterday, the world came together for the beloved chorus – Happy Valentine’s Day. While it was only a day-long, the preparations did not spare any cost.
Both the love struck and lovelorn came together to celebrate or seek cupid. The power of love, its torrent of emotions, is perhaps shown in the fact that even the best experience difficulties in expressing their heartfelt sentiments. And so the greeting cards, flowers, chocolate and other Valentine’s Day-themed activities go to where words may not be
Valentine’s Day is easily one of the highest earning commercial holidays. In 2017, statistics showed that romance novels (I remember the Mills and Boon series from my high school days) accounted for about fifteen percent of all adult fiction purchases. They beat fantasy and sci-fi combined.
The media also has its say on the day. The UK’s Mirror newspaper gave its readers ten Valentine’s Day facts and trivia. It reported that in Japan, “only women buy gifts on Valentine’s Day.” Apparently, this is “because of a translation error made by a chocolate company in 1936, when Valentine’s Day was first introduced to Japan.” I keep asking; can it not be corrected?
The paper also reported that “sending Valentine’s Day cards anonymously became popular in the Victorian era, but there was a dark tradition. Just as people used to send romantic (and often racy) messages to their loved ones, they would send rude or insulting cards to anyone they didn’t like.”
The BBC had a touching story of a deaf couple from Lebanon. The couple hopes that “their children will be born hearing so they do not face the challenges they did.” Talk about the power of love.
It is reported that in the UK, people celebrating Valentine’s Day spend on average twenty-four pounds each. In the USA, “it’s significantly higher, with the average person spending around $221 (roughly N$3 000) for the occasion.
Love is heartwarming; it can also be heartrending. It is a miraculous thing which often has people looking for all sorts of weapons to shield themselves from love’s roller-coaster experiences. Love speaks of a connectedness, of a constant and unyielding struggle to find and know one another. To hold, cherish and keep. It is ultimately bigger and more embracing than the celebration of romantic love on Valentine’s Day.
And so February is also celebrated as Black History Month. In 1964, author James Baldwin bemoaned the weaknesses of his education. He wrote, “I began to be bugged by the teaching of American history because it seemed that history had been taught without cognisance of my presence.”
Baldwin was following in the footsteps of Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland who established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. Woodson had noted how black people were underrepresented in the narratives that shaped the study of American history.
In February 1926, Woodson and his organisation initiated the first Negro History Week which eventually grew into a month-long celebration of the achievements and contributions of black people.
In 1976, then-USA president Gerald Ford decreed Black History Month with the following message: “We can seize the opportunity to honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” American presidents have issued national decrees with each year’s theme since then.
The theme for this year is “Black Migrations.”
It is worth noting that previous themes have focused on freedom, education, women, the youth, family, community and racism. Other pivotal topics have explored issues of the church, leadership, politics and economic empowerment. The Black History Month subtext is, “know the past, shape the future.”
African American sociologist, Chancellor Williams, once said: “To be ignorant of history is to be ignorant of what you are trying to do now. History will show you where we have been, how we arrived where we are, whether we travelled the best routes, and it will indicate – if we pause to reflect long enough – the best route to travel on from this point in time.”
It is instructive that Clarke’s words are ultimately an invitation to the “whole world.” Black History Month is thus not a members-only club. It embraces all of humanity which is interested in forging a better future for all. It revels in blackness; it celebrates humanness!
Indeed, celebrated writer Maya Angelou observed that “love recognises no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, and penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
As we reflect on the great gift of love, I wish to conclude with Felix Adler’s words: “Love is the expansion of two natures in such fashion that each includes the other, each is enriched by the other.”
May love suffuse and spread throughout all your endeavours.