In her thoroughly entertaining and moving new memoir Cack-Handed (a British term for being left-handed), comedian Gina Yashere — co-creator and a castmember of CBS’ Bob Hearts Abishola — writes about growing up in England as a kid transplanted from Nigeria. In addition to dealing with a fearsomely strict mom (who “beat it into us that you have to be the best,” she writes), Yashere encountered rabid racism along the way, from her time as the first female elevator engineer at Otis in the U.K. (“I’d often come in the morning to find pictures of a monkey stuck above my station”) to constantly being subjected to drug searches in Asia and car stops by police in England after her stand-up career took off. It was only years later, in 2012, that she began talking about being a lesbian in her act.
[. . .]
You’ve always been known for a compelling authenticity onstage, but you didn’t talk about being a lesbian for many years. Why?
I always thought that coming out would just add one more thing to be beaten down with — among friends and family, and also in this industry. As a woman, as a Black woman, not looking a certain way, I didn’t want to give them something else to use to hold me back. My whole childhood I’d been teased — about my name, about my African-ness, about the size of my lips. I’d finally gotten to the point where I had left school behind and started a new life, and I didn’t want to do anything that would upset the apple cart.
In what other ways does being both Black and a lesbian intersect — or not?
You can’t hide your Blackness. And there’s also racism within the gay community. A lot. The gayness was the only thing I had some sort of control over. It was easier to hide, even though my energy is quite masculine so they were always suspicious. But as a Black woman, you can’t hide your color. As soon as you turn up, immediately judgments are made about you. That was what I’ve had my entire life.
One of the funniest parts of the book is where you talk about coming across a news story in your teenage years about lesbians and going, “Mummy wants us to be lesbians!” because your mother was so adamant that you stay away from men.
I really thought I had it worked out. And then I carried on with my life and never really thought about it again until I started to have crushes on female teachers and stuff.
What finally prompted you to come out?
When I came to America. Fuck it. I’m in the land of the free.
I watch BOB HEARTS ABISHOLA mainly on the weekends. I put new episodes in my cloud. It's a good show. I didn't watch it when it first came on. When THE NEIGHBORHOOD came on, I missed it. But Jim kept talking it up and he loves that show and he watches with his dad (they're on the phone together watching). Because I was watching THE NEIGHBORHOOD, I gave BOB HEARTS ABISHOLA a try. I like both shows. They're also shows that I will watch in repeats. They're too strong sitcoms and I know they're popular but I think their popularity will only increase when they both go into syndication. Usually, shows see an uptick when they go into syndication -- an uptick in ratings.
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, June 10, 2021. Attacks on US-interests in Iraq, a probable killer walks free, and much more.
The most dominant Iraq item in the news cycle? Another attack.
Multiple rockets have targeted two Iraqi military bases hosting US-led coalition troops and foreign contractors but nobody was hurt in the attacks.
Iraq’s joint operations command said in a statement on Thursday one attack near a military base next to Baghdad’s airport was spearheaded by three explosives-laden drones, and one of the UAVs was intercepted and destroyed.
Three rockets also hit Balad airbase, north of the capital, on Wednesday without causing any casualties or damage, a military statement said. The base houses foreign military contractors.
AFP explains, "Balad air base, north of Baghdad, is used by US company Sallyport to service F-16 fighter jets flown by Iraq’s air force and has repeatedly been targeted by rocket fire. Another US company, Lockheed Martin, withdrew its staff from the base last month amid concerns about the safety of its personnel." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) provides this context, "The attacks are the latest in a string that continue to target the U.S. presence in Iraq. Over a dozen have targeted Iraqi military bases and Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone since U.S. President Joe Biden assumed office this year. More than 10 people have been killed, including two foreign contractors." Sura Ali (RUDAW) notes, "In May, a leader in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) affiliated with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense said there are Iranian-made drones in Iraq that are ready to be used against US combat troops." THE NEWSHOUR's Leila Molana-Allen Tweets:
In other news, Qasim Muslih was released yesterday ending a brief, momentary hope many Iraqis had that someone might be held accountable for the wave of assassinations targeting Iraqi activists. Balsam Tweets:
You really don't need to ask that question. Qasim Muslih and his cohorts have designated activists as terrorists. When their wave or propaganda took place in January of 2000, they attacked and beat Shi'ites hanging truths around Baghdad about their fallen wet dream -- assassinated by the US government -- who was nothing but a thug who terrorized Sunnis, Iraq's LGBT community and freedom. Putting a poster is an offense that can get you executed in Qasim's mind, it is terrorism. And taking down a poster promoting Qasim and his fellow thugs? It's cause to murder.
Qasim Muslih: "Any hand which [takes down] posters of the Hashd and Abu Mahdi AlMuhandis, I will cut it and send it back to you" Many such audio recordings of direct threats, but still "insufficient evidence" for his role in assassinations of activists.
Terrorists, in Qasim's mind, are those activists who make up The October Movement, a group of largely Shi'ite Iraqis who came together to demand better public services -- we'll come back to that in a minute -- and an end to corruption. Making those demands? In Qasim's mind is an act of terrorism. The militias were always a bad thing but since they were folded into the official Iraqi military, they've been even worse. They have threatened and bullied the current prime minister. And they got away with it.
The arrest had sparked immediate controversy. Iran-linked militiamen arrived at the gates of Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone within hours. The army was deployed. That standoff ended only when one of Kadhimi’s predecessors and political foes, Nouri al-Maliki, stepped in to defuse tensions, officials say.
In a statement Wednesday, Iraq’s judiciary said that it had not seen sufficient evidence to convict Musleh and that he had provided a document showing that he was out of the country during the killing of at least one of two civil society activists in Karbala whose deaths he is being linked to. Iraqi officials had previously said that they had a case file proving his connection to the killing.
Better public services? I said we'd come back to that. Though not reported on that often these days, Iraq still has a problem of providing potable water -- safe drinking water. For example, Khazan Jangiz (RUDAW) reported yesterday:
Sulaimani’s health directorate on Wednesday expressed its concern over
increasing cases of diarrhea among the public, urging residents to
refrain from using unsuitable drinking water.
“The data that we have, we will not hide it, it’s caused us worry and fear because the number of people infected with diarrhea has tripled and now a large number of people are suffering from diarrhea,” Sabah Nasraddin, the general director of Sulaimani’s health directorate, said in a press conference on Wednesday.
“We suspect if it’s not controlled, it could be a cause for the spread of cholera,” Nasraddin warned. “One of the reasons as you know is the drought, because the water has decreased and people are resorting to well water and water that is not suitable for drinking, which will spread disease.”
However, a senior Iraqi government official denounced the decision to release Muslah.
“Telephone communications on the topic of these assassinations between Muslah and the direct perpetrators, threats to relatives, witness testimony, explanations received under questioning — all were supplied,” the official said.
“The government presented all available evidence, but the judges have decided to release him because of pressure exerted on them.” Muslah’s release coincided with the arrival in Baghdad of Gen. Esmail Ghaani, head of the Quds Force, the overseas unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Ghaani met militia and political leaders to discuss tensions between the government and the Hashd Al-Shaabi. Muslah’s arrest last month sparked tensions and fears of violence.
Hashd Al-Shaabi forces surrounded Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s headquarters inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government, and Iraqi security forces and the elite Counter-Terrorism Service were deployed to protect the government and diplomatic missions.
We'll note this Tweet.
The two remain dead. Their alleged killer walks free.
A friend at the Pentagon asked me to note the following which was posted by the US Defense Dept yesterday:
The Defense Department celebrates the extraordinary achievements of its LGBTQ+ service members, civilian employees and their families' sacrifices during Pride Month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today at the Pentagon.
Speaking to an audience that included the department's senior-most leadership, the secretary said as DOD reflects on the progress it's made in making sure that everyone who wants to serve and is qualified, can do so with dignity and respect.
"We know we have more work to do, but thanks to your courage, advocacy and dedication, the Department of Defense has been able to do more to secure LGBTQ+ rights than at any other time in history," Austin said.
That includes efforts to ensure all military families and spouses receive the benefits their loved ones have earned, and to which they are entitled; to helping veterans who previously were forced out because of their sexual orientation to apply to correct their records, or — where appropriate — to return to service, he said.
"[It's] often said that progress is a relay race [and] not a single event. That's certainly been true when it comes to the pioneers who fought for this community’s civil rights in the military," the secretary said.
Throughout American history, LGBTQ+ citizens have fought to defend our rights and freedoms — from the founding of our nation to the Civil War, from the trenches of two World Wars to Korea and Vietnam and from Afghanistan to Iraq, the secretary said. "They fought for our country even when our country wouldn't fight for them."
Austin noted how not every advocate of this community's rights has been an LGBTQ+ community member. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, was one leader who took a courageous stand against the law, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which led directly to its repeal 10 years ago.
Today, the department commemorates the repeal of that law and welcomes a new generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardians and Marines, openly and proudly serving their country, Austin said.
"And today, we reaffirm that transgender rights are human rights and that America is safer — it is better — when every qualified citizen can serve with pride and dignity," the secretary said.
He called such efforts real progress and emphasized how the repeal was hard-fought and hard-won.
However, DOD's work isn't done until it tackles the challenge of sexual assault and harassment in the force, he emphasized.
"And we know that service members from this community are at elevated risk of this crime. Our work isn't done until we recognize that the health of the force fully incorporates mental health, including for LGBTQ+ service members," the secretary pointed out.
"That's why we must recommit to treating all wounds, both visible and invisible. And our work still isn’t done until we create a safe and supportive workplace for everyone — one free from discrimination, harassment and fear," Austin said.
"No one should have to hide who they love to serve the country they love," he said. "No service member who is willing to put their life on the line to keep our country safe should feel unsafe because of who they are."
Further, the secretary said, "No citizen who is qualified, willing and able to do the job should be turned away. So yes, we've got more to do. But I'm confident we'll get there because of all of you, and because of the LGBTQ+ service members and civilians around the world who never stop living the values they so bravely defend."
The secretary said he knows this community is especially proud this month and rightfully so. "I'm proud, too," he said, adding, "proud every month and every day to call you my teammates and to serve alongside you — because your lives, careers, service and stories are living proof that we are stronger and more effective together."
Austin thanked the LGBTQ+ community for their service, their skill, and change and progress as they continue to lead. "It matters very much to the defense of this nation," he said.
The following sites updated: