I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it was only a few
years ago that I learned about February being Black History Month, and that it was founded to
shine a light on accomplishments
that might otherwise go unnoticed and unappreciated. I’ve always loved history and wish that I had
been taught more of this in school as I strongly believe that if we all were
exposed to people from different races, ethnicities, religions (comparative
religions was one of my favorite college classes), it would go a long to
helping us appreciate those differences.
Besides history, I love movies, so I love when the combination teaches us something unexpected. For example, one of my favorite movies, Hidden Figures, tells the stories of three amazing Black women who were mathematicians working at NASA in the 1960s who truly broke boundaries, defied expectations, and gave us a window into their lives.
I like to consider myself a lifelong learner and love to
research things that pique my interest or intrigue me, so I was fascinated by
the history of Black History
Month, and its evolution from Negro History Week. The initial week was chosen because it included the birthdays of both
Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and the abolitionist Frederick Douglass (February 14), men who were already celebrated by the Black community, and
who encouraged all Americans to study the little-known history of Blacks.
As an interesting sidenote, Douglass was also a lifelong supporter of women’s rights and died just hours after attending a meeting with suffragists (including his friend Susan B. Anthony).
FULL QUESTION: Have your thoughts or opinions changed about January 6 (riot at the Capitol)?
As a lover
of history, I understand how the shock and impact of events fade over time. It’s just human nature. Which is why it’s important to have
anniversaries to commemorate certain events that are so profound, so
game-changing, so incomprehensible, that we must never forget them. In my lifetime, there were 9/11 and January
6, but I’ll admit to something that I know shocked Black. |
When the question about January 6 came up, I didn’t immediately connect it to the attack on the Capitol. It wasn’t that I forgot the event or even the hearings. But I did forget the date. However, I’ll never forget the Capitol being overrun by rioters. I’ll never forget the extraordinary and horrific visuals. I’ll never forget being at my computer, working on Red & Black, when the first images began to appear, and it just kept getting worse and worse, seeming like something out of a movie or a third-world country. Not an actual event taking place in the United States. And even once civility was restored, it continued to get worse because, only months later, we saw never-before-released video in the 13-minute film prepared by the House impeachment managers. And new information continues to be released that shows the true horror and disturbing reality of what had happened.
Today is the second
anniversary of the January 6 violent
storming of America’s Capitol, a dark and tragic moment in our
country’s history. A day when America
was stopped in its tracks as the unthinkable happened, and so disturbing and
incomprehensible that the following day I wondered, “Did anyone else think of 9/11 yesterday?” And while “Hope In This Horrible Time” focused on the
horror of 9/11, I believed that January 6 would be another example of how we,
as a country, would come together.
Now, two years later, that clarity and feeling of hope are harder to embrace as it seems Americans, even with countless hours of videos, testimonies, interviews, and documentation, cannot even agree on what happened, who was responsible, and how do we prevent it from happening again. I can only hope we can find a way to come together … for the sake of our country. For the sake of democracy.
FULL QUESTION: I know it’s become a holiday tradition, but what do you think of “ugly sweaters”?
love comfy and casual sweaters and sweatshirts (and Black probably thinks
they’re all ugly), your question made me realize I don’t have any
holiday-themed ones. I’m not sure about the
ugly sweaters or if they even existed when I was growing up, although
you might argue that some of the holiday sweaters Andy
Williams wore on his holiday TV specials met the definition. Regardless, I first remember seeing them when
my girls were very young (that’s almost 20 years ago!), and while I know they’re
supposed to be “ugly”, and some of them definitely are, I think many are just
fun and festive.
Of course, I have to mention the ugly sweater scene from the first Bridget Jones movie when Renee Zellweger’s character goes to a holiday party at her parent’s house. After her mom “forces” her to change into a very unattractive (translation frumpy) Christmas dress, she sees the back of what seems to be a very attractive man, and then he turns around. It’s Colin Firth (who was known as a bit of a “heartthrob” at the time after appearing in the TV mini-series “Pride and Prejudice”), but her excitement turns to borderline disgust because, you guessed it, he’s wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. (As an aside, I thought both the sweater and Colin were rather cute.)
What I find amazing is Red does not have a holiday sweater,
and I do. And, although it could be
described as “ugly” or “tacky”, I bought it because I found it most amusing. I heard about the company, Tipsy
Elves shortly after its successful pitch on Shark Tank, and it got coverage
in business publications. When
I got on their website, I thought the “adult” red cardigan sweater with white
snowflakes and deer was hilarious, as when you quickly looked at it, it was
just an ugly sweater. However, if you
looked more carefully, you would see the deer were, uh, mating.
I will not get into the business aspects of ugly sweaters, or how ugly sweater competitions and parties continue to grow the trend. But, at the risk of sounding warm and fuzzy (another thing you would expect of Red, not me), ugly sweaters remind us that the holidays are supposed to be festive and fun, and even though the sweaters may be ugly … they can remind us of the beauty of the season.
If you had
asked me this when my girls were young, since we celebrated both Chanukah and
Christmas, I would’ve said, “Shop for lots of gifts.” Which, I found out the hard way, resulted in
lots of credit
card debt. The funny thing
is, except for my immediate family, I give homemade baked goods to almost
everyone else on my list. Black made me
realize how important it was to plan and budget for the holidays, and I started buying things throughout the year and/or
putting aside money. But, maybe
more importantly, it also made me think about the “best” gifts to give my
And I quickly realized it was the gift of time. I couldn’t help but think of the times I’d be busy and only give half my attention to the girls, promising to spend more time with them “later”. And “later” would never happen. So, I created “Day with Mom” gift certificates that were redeemable for a day to do what they wanted (within reason, of course). Surprisingly, actually shockingly, each chose simple things to do, and this special day of spending time together became one of their favorite gifts (and mine, too).
I have a very short list. In terms of family, I always give my
nieces gifts throughout the year versus feeling forced to find something during
the holiday season, although I do give small “token” gifts and send Red rugelach
from Zabar’s. (It is efficient as I am
already on the website on Cyber Monday buying business gifts.) Of course, for
some people I want to “thank” during the holiday season, cash is the best gift. |
I recognize I am very fortunate, and charities (like Make-A-Wish) help me keep my life in perspective. I have an annual budget, and as situations arise throughout the year (unfortunately, given the increase in natural disasters, they occur all too frequently), I make charitable donations. But, I also realize that during the holiday season, many people are hungry and turn to food banks, so part of my holiday tradition is donating to the Houston Food Bank (part of Feeding America).