- African American Experience
- African Brits
- Christabel Nsiah-Buadi
- cultural identity
The thing about Gina Yashere is…
..well, she seems so unflinchingly HONEST.
I’ve believed this to be true for years — ever since I first saw her on TV, strutting and OWNING the stage as she dropped joke after joke about being Black and African and British back in the ’90s. The first time I watched Yashere on TV, I remember thinking “where does she find the balls to say that?” She’d say things that I felt, and never had the balls to say, let alone laugh out loud about, like the frustrations of never being allowed to go out because ‘we don’t know their people.’
My question was answered when I saw her talk with fellow comedian Michelle Bateau about her new book ‘Cack Handed: A Memoir.’
(Enter my Ghanaian auntie voice again) ‘For those who don’t know’ ‘Cack Handed’ is a British term for left-handed people. And those of you who understand linguistics will also know that ‘cack’ another term for ‘caca,’ another term for poo. Fun fact: in many cultures around the world, including many African nations – the left hand is reserved for wiping your bum. Eating with said hand causes serious offense — or (as I can say from experience, as a fellow leftie) – a swift slap of the hand.
Listening to her conversation with Bateau, it occurred to me that part of Yashere’s charm is that she’s into the things that make her different. She frames ‘being different, well, differently. Sure, she’s seen as too Black to be British, British-born, so not Nigerian enough, outspoken, and a lesbian. Oh, and she’s left-handed — or as we sometimes say, in the UK, ‘cack-handed’. But she’s not the only one with these identities or even this combination of them. I mean, I see lots of myself in her. Her experiences resonate with mine.
What she gets is that she lives in a world that doesn’t always accommodate those things. Her response is to create space for those things. She told me when I interviewed her in 2019,
‘…as a black woman — a black woman who’s gay, a black immigrant — things are gonna happen to you. You’re going to make observations, whether it’s about sexism, homophobia, racism, misogyny. So, if I want to educate people, I have to do it in a way that makes them think without realizing that they’re thinking.’
These day’s she’s doing it in other places too. She’ll shut down racist trolls and liberals who question that racism has ever existed. Anyone who has seen her school-grown journalists about racism in England (while sipping her water – or was it tea?) knows just how good she is at doing that. She’s always dancing with her partner to old skool UK club hits, shouting at us to ‘name dat CHOON!’ And she co-created a hit comedy about a Nigerian woman who falls in love with a middle-aged white man.
I can’t help but enjoy watching her create space for herself, and I can’t wait to read her book.