martinlutherking.jpg By JENNIFER VEGA

Preoccupied with thoughts of lingerie and chocolate, consumers and businesses alike often neglect what seems to be February’s second most important celebration: Black History Month. As the V-Day infatuation comes to an end, Black History Month is allowed a bit more of the attention it deserves.

Started in 1976 by the Association for Afro-American Life and History, BHM was an extension of Negro History Week, a tradition started in 1926. Although some joke that February was chosen because it is the shortest month of the year, the month was actually chosen to honor the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

For many, the month comes and goes each year with only scattered reminders from companies such as Pepto-Bismol, who in 2005 equated Black History with their company’s “history of digestive solutions.” The commercialization of BHM has caused many to lose sight of its purpose.

However, there are some institutions which remain true to the spirit of the month: museums and theaters nationwide are paying tribute to black contributions in art, music, science and politics. But this causes one to wonder why Black History is not celebrated year-round. “Black history should not be relegated into a month,” says Denise Oliver-Velez, an original member of the Young Lords Party and former member of the Black Panthers. “It is the history of the Americas."

Many agree with Oliver-Velez, who also remembers a time when blacks and Latinos were quick to acknowledge their historical connections. “[In the Young Lords Party] we would recognize the history of blacks in Puerto Rican Afro-Taino culture. Yet, now nobody discusses these things.”

For those who choose to utilize BHM to gain knowledge on what any card-carrying civil rights activist would call “the real American history,” take a look at three of many event taking place across the country:

NEW YORK Uncommon Images: The Harlem of James Van Der Zee (28 min.), and Conversations with Roy DeCarava (28 min.). $20. February 17, 2007 Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium 1000 Fifth Avenue. Manhattan. 212.535.7710

OHIO A Tribute to Black History- program pays homage and honor to African-Americans. February 28, 2007. 2:00 p.m. Free. Recital Hall, College of Mount St. Joseph 5701 Delhi Road. Cincinnati. 513.244.4239 for more information.

CALIFORNIA Malcolm X "The Last Days". The play chronicles the last seven days in the life of a man whose vision of humanity was never finalized. Runs until Feb. 25th . 8 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Actors Studio, 5215 Lankershim Blvd. Los Angeles. 818.668.4793